13: They call me Red…

 

Rhondda acted nervous on the drive back to the farm. “Patrick,” she asked, “will we ever be safe?”

“I can’t predict the future, but I’ll always have your back; I’ll always be at your side. Whatever happens, we’ll face it together as we have in the past. It was a surprise to learn that our photos had been circulated in Ireland. Perhaps it’s time for a change of scene. I’m sure that Paddy has everything under control at the farm.”

When they reached the farm they told Paddy of their accomplishments, recommendations and their meeting with the biker who recognized them from photos.

Paddy said, “I can understand your concern, but nobody has traced you back to the farm. Soon we will be well armed, but in the meantime, perhaps you two should consider a change of location until we can get this sorted.”

“I’ve been in contact with the army. They’re willing to erect the mobile kitchen, supply the necessary dishes and cutlery. They’ll also send a camp cook and some kitchen help to wash dishes. I expect we’ll be having a visit from the camp commander to see how his resources are being used. He’s very supportive since this will assist veterans in their problems with addiction, homelessness and PTSD.”

“Where would you like to go, Rhondda?” asked Patrick.

“My ancestors came from Wales. I’ve heard that it’s very pretty there. Also, the Welsh were very successful in holding back the British from the time of the Norman Invasion in 1066 to the invasion by Edward the 1st in 1282. The land is very rugged, that helped in protecting the Welsh forces. Hopefully, it will help protect us as well.”

“Sounds great to me, I’ll make the arrangements. The Irish Ferries travel between Dublin and Holyhead and have six sailings daily. Driving to Dublin will take about an hour and a half. On the way we can search on the computer for places we’d like to stay and things we’d like to see and do.”

Rhondda said, “I’m feeling better already. I can’t wait to see where my ancestors lived.”

On the road, Rhondda checked the various listings for cottages near Holyhead. “Patrick, listen to this, ‘Bwthyn Y Borth,’ whatever that means, is in Rhoscolyn, near Holyhead. ‘This semi-detached cottage is positioned on the cliff tops of Rhoscolyn head, with a stunning outlook over the dramatic shoreline and distant views of the Snowdonia Mountains.’ Doesn’t that sound lovely? There’s more, ‘This traditional whitewashed semi-detached cottage adjoins the owner’s home and is peacefully situated on the cliff tops at Rhoscolyn Head. It enjoys a stunning outlook over the dramatic sea and shoreline, coastal path and distant views of the Snowdonia Mountains. A fine dining pub is a lovely 30-minute walk across the cliff tops, and guests to the cottage have direct access (via steep stone steps) to a private beach and, at high tide, a natural seawater pool perfect for a summer dip! ‘ Doesn’t that sound divine. Should I book it now?”

“Sure, go for it. Pay in advance if that will help to reserve our accommodations, it’s probably a popular place.”

“I also found a great place in Dublin for supper. It’s called Lavanda, 31 North Brunswick Street, they serve Croatian, organic food. It has great reviews. Want to give it a try?”

“Yes, I’m hungry.”

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12: They call me Red…

 

Rhondda visited the Women’s Aid Centre and registered as a volunteer for the 24hr National Freephone Helpline. Her experience as a former employer of women made her an ideal candidate. She’d listened to the dancers’ problems and offered advice and assistance when needed.

“The Helpline aims to empower women to identify what is happening for them within their relationship and support them to stay safe and support the safety of any children living within the relationship. The Helpline aims to at all times ensure that the responsibility for the abuse is placed firmly with the perpetrator of the abuse and not with the woman.”

They next drove to Smarmore Castle, a residential rehabilitation center for drugs and alcohol. Based in 15 acres of private land set amid the rolling hills of County Louth, Smarmore Castle is only an hour and forty-five-minute drive from Carlow (140.8 km) via M9. 

The staff of twelve, including two therapists, a psychiatrist, a special addictions counselor, two nurses, and six administrative staff were extremely helpful in showing us around their facility. They mentioned that In 2011, Carlow had low alcohol consumption rates compared to other Irish counties, however in 2012 it had one of the highest numbers of patients treated for problem alcohol use relative to the rest of Ireland. Ireland and County Carlow, in particular, had some of the highest numbers of patients treated for problem alcohol and drug use, especially among 18-24-year-olds. There were 219 drug-related deaths recorded in 2014, compared to 189 in 2012. This is a beautiful and caring rehabilitation center. We felt confident in referring people to Smarmore and have the finances on hand to cover their treatment.

We also contacted the International Association of Trauma Recovery Coaches for all trauma survivors to share the experience of their trauma and learn new strategies for their recovery. Many war buddies with PTSD could interact with a community that had gone through similar situations. All trauma is as unique as the person suffering. This could be the first step in obtaining the proper treatment. 

With these visits completed, we decided to break for lunch at Teach Dolmain. We were sitting quietly at a corner table when a leather-clad biker approached our table. “I’ve seen you two before.”

“That’s possible,” said Patrick. “What of it?”

“If I remember correctly your pictures were forwarded to us by a sister club in the States. I’ll let it go for now until I get more information. You may be seeing me again.”

“We’ll look forward to it,” said Patrick. “In the meantime may we buy you a drink? If we’re going to be neighbors it seems only right that we should get to know each other. My name is Patrick and this is Rhondda.”

“I don’t remember those names being associated with the pictures. Maybe it was someone else, but I’ll drink with you.”

Patrick looked out on the street and saw a customized Harley Davidson Sportster parked in front. He excused himself and stepped outside. Cutting the brake lines was easy and inconspicuous. He returned to the table and toasted their new neighbor. “Is that your motorbike outside?”

“I prefer to call it a motorcycle or chopper. A motorcycle is referred to something which is more powerful, bigger and has more HP. A motorbike, on the other hand, is used to describe a small, lightweight motorcycle. Chopper refers to the fact that I’ve chopped or customized it to my specifications. I’ve stripped excess bodywork; removed the front fender, shortened the rear fender and all superfluous parts removed to reduce weight.”

“You’ve done an impressive job, but why would you go to all that trouble?”

“It’s part of a biker’s life. The 1%er definition as we see it ‘is one that explains our commitment to Biking and Brotherhood. We ride our motorcycles every day rain or shine. We ride thousands of miles each year with our Brothers to attend parties, social events, funerals and just plain spending time together. We work, have families and do all the things that our neighbors do. In addition to that, we belong to a Brotherhood that we are able to combine with our day to day lives.’ Further, I can’t explain it; you wouldn’t understand. I’ll be hitting the road now. Nice meeting you neighbor.”

Patrick smiled and said, “Ride safe!”

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11: They call me Red…

 

The morning was greeted by the rooster crowing, cows mooing, sheep bleating and people from the tents milling and chatting. Paddy had moved two picnic tables near the back door of the farmhouse. Brianna brought out a pot of coffee and one of tea. She shouted, “We’re not very well equipped yet, so breakfast will be porridge and soda bread. I’m sorry that we only have paper bowls and plastic spoons. Eat as much as you want and let me know when the tea and coffee runs out. Tomorrow I’ll make sure we also have cereal, fruit, yogurt, boiled eggs and toast.

“We don’t have enough chairs, so feel free to sit on the steps on rocks or on the grass.”

Rhondda sat beside a woman and asked how she came to be homeless. The woman named Shelagh said, “My life has always been messed up. I was molested by my father, grandfather and uncle. I got along really well with my mother; in fact, she was my best friend until I got into drugs. Then she threw me out. I’d finished grade eight and was fourteen at the time. I started hanging out with a local motorcycle gang.  I was cute and chubby, they treated me like their mascot. I started using more drugs, then selling drugs, then went to prison. I’ve been staying with friends, but that can only last so long. So, now I’m here.”

“Are there any job vacancies that you could apply for?”

“I check the newspaper every day. Here are the employment want ads from yesterday. I could apply to be a Wellness Coach if I knew what that was, ICT Applications Analyst, that’s another mystery. Some people tell me that I have anger management issues. I’m not angry. I don’t think I’ve had a legal job in my life except for one week at a pizza restaurant that turned out to be the front for a drug operation. Do you know of any place that would hire a forty-seven-year-old alcoholic, epileptic, agoraphobic, ex-felon who may, or may not have anger management issues?”

After everyone had eaten, Paddy said, “I’m driving the bus into Carlow Town. Everyone is welcome to come with me, but if any of you want to stay here, that’s fine too. For those coming with me let your friends in town know what we’re offering. The bus will be returning to the farm at 5 o’clock, everyone is welcome.

To Patrick and Rhondda Paddy said. “Take your own car and visit as many of the social service agencies that you can. Rhondda, you mentioned that you wanted to visit the Women’s Aid. I’m going to visit Father Peter McVerry, a Roman Catholic priest, notable for battling homelessness in Ireland. He appeared on the Sean O’Rourke Show on RTE Radio One and said, “They become homeless because the landlord evicts them, because they cannot afford to pay the rent or because the landlords say they’re selling their house or because the banks have re-possessed the landlord’s house because the landlord hasn’t paid their mortgage.”

Brother Kevin Crowley said, “We have people leaving here in the evening times after having dinner. Some of these people are walking the streets at nighttime and certainly, they’re glad to get a cup of tea or a cup of soup because otherwise what will they do for the rest of the night if they don’t get something to drink or to eat?

“It’s impossible to get the beds at nighttime, you wouldn’t have people walking the streets at night if they could.

“A number of people are also afraid to go into the hostels at night because they are afraid of getting robbed, they are afraid of the drugs and sometimes they could get attacked or stabbed and some of the hostels are appalling for how they treat people.

“Our main priority is to respect the dignity of the homeless people.

“I would do anything to keep people alive and to try to make sure that nobody goes hungry.”

Patrick said, “I can visit Carlow Community Alcohol Service at St. Dympna’s Hospital. We want to cover all the bases, but don’t want to interfere with what’s already working well. I’ll tell them what we have to offer and together we can decide the best route to take. I’ll see you later at dinner.

With that, Patrick and Rhondda drove to town. At all the places they visited they were welcomed. One woman said, “It’s great to have somebody offering help, usually we only have people requesting help.”

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10: They call me Red…

 

(Anyone in need of shelter in Carlow please contact the Carlow County Council on 0599170302)

The bus arrived at the farm and twenty people clambered off. Paddy was on hand to greet them. “Welcome to the farm, I’m Paddy your host, Brianna is my wife and my friends Patrick and Rhondda you’ve already met. Sean has been hired as my assistant in charge of accommodation. I’ll pass all information through him.

“We plan to build permanent housing and medical facilities in some of our outbuildings. These will take some time to construct. In the meantime, a friend at the Curragh Camp, Newbridge, of the Irish Army, has offered us three 18-foot by 24-foot tent army tents for occupancy and a mobile army field kitchen. One of the tents will be for women, one for men and a third for families. For security, we’ll have ex-army military police to patrol the grounds. Living in a tent probably doesn’t sound very appealing. Patrick and I are ex-army and this is the army way.

“I came upon this idea after contacting many of my former comrades in arms. They reported difficulty in returning to civilian life. Some suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, some had developed addictions, others faced mental issues, others were homeless. I wondered if there was a way that I could help some of my buddies by providing medical, psychological and addiction support in a stress-free environment. As you can see I have the land. I’ve applied to the Residential Tenancies Board for a license to rent accommodation. Non-Profit status is being arranged by my lawyer and we will be working with local agencies such as the Carlow Volunteer Center, Carlow Women’s Aid,  the Monastery Hostel, Carlow County Council, the Health Service Executive, Gardaí and St Catherine’s Community Services.

“We’ll be offering jobs in construction, cooking and cleaning at current, local rates of pay. We also recognize you as unique individuals with unique problems, please tell us about your situation and any special requirements. We don’t judge or discriminate. We know that some of you are fleeing a violent relationship. We are here for the sole purpose of helping you transition through a difficult period in your lives. That’s all for my speech. Have a look around, ask questions and offer suggestions.”

A man approached Paddy. He said, “My name’s Ted. Will you be having Alcoholics Anonymous meetings here? I haven’t had a beer for thirty days now. At first, I got really sick. It was like the ‘flu. I’d have sweats one minute then I’d be shivering my ass off. My kidneys shut down. I didn’t pee for three days. After four days I went to the doctor. I told him about my problems. He said I was suffering from alcohol withdrawal. He said I could have died. I didn’t know that. He said I should have cut down to three beer a day for the first week, then two a day the next week, and one a day for the following week. Then it would be okay to quit altogether. I’ve had diabetes for the past ten years, so cutting out the beer will be good for that as well.”

That’s a good point, Ted, “Yes we Will be hosting AA meetings. Where are you attending now?”

“Every day I go to St. Catherine’s Community Services Centre. Their meetings are six days a week at 1 PM and 8:30 PM.”

“It will take a while to get AA located here, but in the meantime, we can drive you into town and back so you needn’t worry about missing your meetings.”

“It scares me. I hear these voices in my head. One will say, ‘Stay away from that stuff, Ted It’ll kill you.’ Another voice says, ‘Just have one drink. You can handle it.’ The problem is that once I’ve had a drink my resistance goes down and I’ll keep drinking until I’m unconscious. I’ll wake up and not remember anything.”

He asked the man standing next to him, “Chester,have you ever been in a rehab program?”

“Yes, three times. Each time I told them the same story and each time they said, ‘We don’t want you here.’

“What was the story that you told them?”

“I said, “Each morning I wake up, get drunk, fall down and have fun.”

Ted continued, “I know so much about those places I could be a counselor. In group sessions when you first arrive you have to give a statement. It would start with, ‘I am an addict and I can’t control my addiction.’ Sometimes, when young girls were asked to describe their situation they’d start crying and say they couldn’t talk about it, the counselor would say, ‘Go over and talk to Ted. He knows what’s going on.’ So, they’d come over and I’d say. ‘You have to be open and honest. You say you can’t talk about what happened, but the truth is that you’re not willing to talk about it. The only way this program is going to help is if you put your heart in it.’

“The counselors would question me and I could tell them just what they wanted to hear. They’d say, ‘Ted you have such good retention of information.’ It was like going for a school exam when I’d taken the same exam five times before. These places all asked the same things.” “So how are you doing now, Ted?” “I drink, smoke a bit of pot, occasionally take meth. I don’t drop two tabs like some of these kids; I cut a tab in half and take that. It helps with my sexual performance if you know what I mean. “I made a commitment this morning. I’m going to cut out the hard stuff. A couple of days ago I got really wasted. When I woke up this morning I had the shakes, my legs were twitching. I had two beer, 4.9 percent, and it leveled me off. From now on I’m going to stick to beer.”

“Do rehabilitation centers work?”

“Yes and no. I’ve been in rehab five times. I’m still an alcoholic, but they kept me clean for a while. The longest period was five years. That’s when I was living five miles in the bush. The outreach workers were great. Each Friday they’d walk the five miles into my camp to see if I was okay. They’d bring soup and other food supplies. I felt guilty so I said to them, ‘Instead of you walking here, I’ll be on the highway at eight o’clock every Friday evening.’ So, that’s the way we worked it out.”

A military truck pulled into the driveway of the farm. Two soldiers unloaded the four tents. One of the soldiers approached, “Paddy, you old son of a gun. I haven’t seen you for a while. We’ll have to get together and have a few beers.”

“Declan, I wasn’t expecting you to come in person. It’s great to see you. This group here is in need of emergency shelter. How can you help us?”

“At the Irish Defence Forces, we have the UN Training School. Your request falls into the category of Peace Support Operations:  the provision of regional security missions and fundamental human rights. Our commanding officer is very interested in the care and treatment of veterans suffering from PTSD. We have Trainees in Military Medicine, Family Services dealing with domestic violence, drug and alcohol rehabilitation. We also have the Irish United Nations Veterans Association. I’m sure you will have many volunteers when they hear what you’re doing.

“So, we have the tents you requested, the emergency kitchen facilities, cots, blankets and bottled water. After you’re set up let us know of any further requirements, advice or services where we may be able to help.”

“Thanks, Declan, much obliged.” What do you say, folks? How about a cheer for the Irish Defence Forces.”

A cheer arose. They were happy to have a place to stay.

Patrick announced to the crowd, “You’re welcome to stay here. You can help to erect the tents. We’ll serve a hot meal. Brianna is working on it in the kitchen. If you want to return to Carlow I’m sure I can convince these soldiers to drive you where you want to go.

“If that’s it let’s get those tents up and eat dinner.”

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9: They call me Red…

Sean had slept in one of the empty bedrooms at the farm. He joined us for breakfast and agreed to introduce us to his friends. On the drive to town, he chatted about everything and nothing, “I’m pissed off with this Brexit situation. I was born in Scotland, but if Britain separates from Europe I’ll need a passport to travel out of the country. I have a friend in Ecuador, he says there are plenty of harvesting jobs there.

“They should decriminalize panhandling, street prostitution and drugs. And I mean all drugs, heroin included.”

Sean directed us to where a group of people was gathered. Most of them were smoking. They all looked to see who Sean had with him and why?

Sean said, “These two are friends of mine. If anybody has a problem with that they’ll have to go through me. They’re here to help. They got plans to house homeless people. We’ll have access to, doctors, psychiatrists. Most of us have a problem in that department. In the meantime, they’ve offered tents, meals. It’s all free. We can repay them by doing work around the farm. Who’s interested in checking this out? You got nothing to lose but the hassle of the guards (police).

Patrick was concerned about transportation. He reluctantly decided to rent a bus. There was much discussion about local matters. Who’d been beaten, who’d been robbed, Who’d been raped.

One woman said, “Whatever happened to that mother with her six-year-old boy. The one that had a tent set up a tent outside the local authority’s offices in Carlow. She had brought proceedings in the High Court challenging the local authority’s refusal to provide them with emergency accommodation.”

“I remember that,” said another.

Karen Middleton and her son Luke, who had been living in a tent outside the local authority’s offices in Carlow, had brought proceedings in the High Court challenging the local authority’s refusal to provide them with emergency accommodation.

In his judgment today Justice Charles Meenan dismissed her action, which had been opposed by Carlow County Council.

Following the ruling, the Middleton’s solicitor Sinead Kerin of Mercy Law Resource Centre said they were disappointed with the decision. She said Karen and Luke did not know where they would be living tonight.

The court had heard that after leaving the tent the Middletons had been living in accommodation paid for through charitable donations, pending the outcome of the court’s decision, the solicitor said.

Karen Middleton had left Dublin with her son in late March and returned to her native Carlow following a breakdown in her relationship. She had stayed with relatives until they were no longer able to provide them with shelter.

In April they presented as being homeless at Carlow County Council’s offices and, while initially having been refused emergency accommodation the Council put them up at B&Bs for short periods up until 12 June.

When the council stopped providing them with accommodation on 12 June last month she staged a sit-in before being removed by the gardaí. She then took up residence in a tent outside the council’s offices.

Due to fears her son may be taken from her, friends and supporters of the Middletons allowed Luke to sleep on their sofas. She had tried but had been unable to secure private rented accommodation.

The Middletons asked the High Court for an order directing Carlow County Council to consider their outstanding application for emergency homeless accommodation by way of social housing support or by any other means.

They had also sought an order quashing the council’s decision that the Middletons could reasonably be expected to use alternative accommodation until the mother was able to rent a property.

The council opposed Middleton’s demands on the grounds it had limited resources available and that her requests had been fully considered.

Justice Meenan, in a reserved judgment, said there was no basis to quash the council’s decision and the Middletons were not precluded from making a fresh application for emergency accommodation should further circumstances arise.

He said a detailed meeting between Middleton, who was accompanied with a representative of Focus Ireland, and the council had been held on 24 May last as a result of which he could not say the council’s decision to refuse further emergency accommodation could be “fundamentally at variance with reason and common sense.”

The judge said he was taking into account the resources the council had available and the competing demands on those resources.

The council had told the court there are 150 other persons in Co Carlow in a similar situation to the Middletons, and the council cannot afford to give the Middletons priority.

The judge rejected claims by the Middletons that the council had not given them adequate reasons for its decision.

He noted that Karen Middleton will have a housing assistance payment available to her where she would be paid a sum of money each month to go towards rent. (The Journal.ie, 14 August 2017)

“That’s no way to treat people,”  grumbled the group.

Patrick shouted, “There’s a bus on its way. If anybody wishes to see the farm and the plans we have for it please climb on the bus. We’ll be happy to answer any questions. We’ll drive you back here anytime you want.”

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8: They call me Red

Patrick and Rhondda awoke in the farmhouse to the aroma of bacon and coffee. They dressed in casual clothes then joined Paddy and Brianna in the kitchen.

“Something smells good,” said Patrick as he whiffed the air. He pulled out one of the vacant chairs and seated Rhondda then took the seat beside her.

“Thank you, ” said Rhondda, “I do appreciate the gentlemanly gesture.”

“My pleasure,”  he answered.

Paddy waited until everyone had been served their food and drink then cleared his throat. “I’ve been giving some thought to your situation. A photographer will be coming this afternoon to take passport photos. If you’re completely satisfied with your new names I can start the process with your international driver’s licenses. After we have all the papers in order you can apply for health insurance through the Irish Health Care System. Most things are subsidized, but I’ll list you both as employees so you will be covered under the farm’s private insurance.

“Concerning your physical security, I think you are relatively safe here. With new identities, there won’t be any electronic way of tracing you. There would be more to be concerned about in Dublin, it being a bigger place. As I understand it the new owners of the strip club have access to all closed-circuit scanning devices so there will be photos of you circulated throughout the biker network. You’re the first person I’ve discussed this with, so I don’t know what the response will be. There are a lot of soldiers suffering from PTSD. They’ll be pleased to hear of a treatment center manned by other soldiers. I’m going to ask them, ‘Do you want to take lives, or would you rather save them?’ I expect that we’ll have a small army here on the farm. It’ll be no worse getting shot by a biker than it was being a target on the battleground.

That brings me to your appearance. Rhondda you’ll need to have your hair cut.”

What? No way! I’ve worn my hair long since I was a little girl.”

“Just joking, but you may need an assortment of wigs.”

“That, I can do.”

“Patrick, there’s nothing we can do with you. You’re always going to look like a cop or a soldier. Perhaps you can try one of Rhondda’s wigs.”

“I’m kidding!”

“On to other matters, since we’re all in agreement about the possibilities of housing for the homeless. We hope to also build offices for doctors, psychiatrists, drug counselors, and rape crisis staff. We’ll need to know what their space requirements will be. Most important we need direct communication and advice from the people on the streets who are most affected: addicts, alcoholics, trauma and other vulnerable victims. Employing people from these ranks is absolutely necessary. Only a drug addict can counsel another drug addict. That’s a lot to cover. Let’s go into Carlow Town and speak to some interested people.”

Patrick said, “Rhondda and I’ll try to locate Sean. He’ll be able to steer us towards the homeless camps and I’m sure he’ll have some ideas about what works and what doesn’t.”

Rhonda said, “Later this week I’m going to visit Carlow Women’s Aid on Old Dublin Road. I’m sure they’ll be able to advise me. Maybe I’ll sign up as a volunteer.”

Paddy said, “I’m going to talk have an architect visit advise us how to best use the space and hear his recommendations. I’ll also set up appointments with doctors, psychiatrists and speak to the head of the Institute of Technology Carlow. We might be able to set up some cooperative programs sharing school work with hands-on work here.”

“That sounds good,” said Patrick. If you can drive us back to the cottage, I’ll collect the rental car, our personal belongings then we’ll meet you back at the farm late in the afternoon. You might also want to think about temporary accommodations such as military tents and camp gear. It won’t be ideal, as you know, but it’s better than sleeping on the streets.”

After collecting our rental car, packing our bags in the trunk, we headed back to Carlow Town to search for Sean. There he was sitting on the same rock as yesterday.

“Hello, Sean, I was wondering if you’d care to join us at the pub as our guest.”

“That’s an offer I can’t refuse.”

We walked to Scraggs Alley, sat at an empty table. The waiter took our order of a light lunch and a Guinness for each of us. After our meal, I said to Sean, “A group of doctors, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists and philanthropists are interested in providing accessible, mental and substance abuse/addiction care for the homeless in a nearby area. We have in mind an existing building starting with twelve beds. Is this something that you’d be interested in? Are twelve beds enough?”

“A thousand beds wouldn’t be enough, but twelve would be a dozen more than we have right now. Follow up and job placement would be mandatory. These people would need to trust that there was someone to turn to if they had a relapse or things went bad. AA has a helpline that alcoholics can use if the need for a drink is too great. They can also go to meetings whenever they want, some go once a day, some go five times a day.

“You’re asking me about this in what capacity? I’m not interested in rehabilitation for myself. I’m different than a lot of people who need drugs and alcohol. If they don’t get their fix or a drink for a couple of days they get symptoms of nausea, headaches, sweats, diarrhea, insomnia, and anxiety, among others. In extreme cases, alcohol detox can cause death. Sometimes, drugs are used to lessen the effects of alcohol detox. “I’m not one of those people.

“For me, it’s a lifestyle choice. I want alcohol, but I don’t need it. Deciding to give up sex doesn’t mean that a man doesn’t get a hard-on. The want is always there. I used heroin for a while but didn’t get addicted because I don’t have an addictive personality. Also, I wasn’t trying to escape from anything. There was nothing that I wanted to forget. I came to Ireland with five friends, we called ourselves a gang. Can you guess how many of them are still alive? One, and that’s because he’s serving twelve years in prison for murder, or manslaughter. Have you seen the movie Trainspotting? If you haven’t you should. It was filmed near where I used to live in Scotland. Do you remember the urinal scene? I was there. My friends were just like the characters in the movie.

“If you’re thinking of a model rehab situation you should look at Holland. Prohibition never works. See what happened in the States, it put all the money in the hands of organized crime. In Holland, what they did first was to eliminate the money. A drug or alcohol addict could get a government license and he would be provided a limited amount of the alcohol or drugs of his choice. He didn’t have to buy from underground sources, so they dried up.

Sean continued, “You must be willing to accept people who are drunk and/or on drugs. At present these people are turned away from AA and the Salvation Army. They demand that an addict be clean for twenty-four hours before entering their premises. There is a small window where addicts have hit rock bottom and may decide that they desperately want recovery. If an addict or an alcoholic can resist for twenty-four hours they don’t need a program. In Scotland and Holland, addicts commit to seventy-two hours where they are locked in and sometimes tied down. After that, it’s their decision to stay or go.

“There would need to be a pharmacist to administer the drugs of choice. Methadone is not a substitute for heroin, it replaces the craving and is administered to a user who has given up the drug, much like a nicotine patch is used by someone quitting smoking. You can’t just slap a patch on a smoker and expect any results. They have to have a deep desire to quit. Being told by a doctor that you either quit or die is often enough motivation.

“It’s essential that there be representatives on the board who were down and out drug users or alcoholics and are now in recovery. Nobody else would know the hell that recovering addicts go through. As an example, a man wouldn’t be effective as a counselor at a rape crisis center, unless the man had himself been raped. A healthy youth wouldn’t be effective counseling to elderly arthritis sufferers about how to deal with their pain. As a parent you wouldn’t be effective counseling pedophiles, you’d look down at them with disgust. Am I getting my point across?

“Another thing you would need is security. If addicts can’t get money for drugs they’ll resort to violence and stealing. This causes bad feelings. If both the thief and the person stolen from are in the same room, or if one is outside and the other is inside, they’ll break down the door to get revenge. If you’d like I’d be willing to speak to this group, and could refer other people who may be of value in the program.”

Patrick said, “You’d be a welcome member of our team. The other members would be most pleased to hear your perspective and recommendations. They may also be able to find you a place to sleep. Tell your friends. You can be our spokesperson.”

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7: They call me Red

We drove with Paddy in his Land Rover to his farm outside Enniscorthy, a village in the southeast of County Carlow and close to both the Wicklow and Wexford borders. The house originally built in 1825 has seven bedrooms, a living room, dining room, pantry and kitchen along with a utility room and one bedroom. Upstairs there are six more bedrooms and a family bathroom. Red took photos from every view imaginable.

Paddy said, “My family has lived here for close to two hundred years. There are over 200 acres of arable land. Currently, 60 acres are in tillage with the remaining in permanent pasture. We raise sheep, cows and horses. Beef prices have taken a tumble so this year we may reduce the size of the herd.

“So what do you think? Barn conversions to human habitation are common in this area. In the newspaper, I noticed fifty-one adds for barns that had been converted to homes. I think that with proper planning we could accommodate a hundred or more people and still keep it a working farm.” 

Dane said, “This is perfect, Paddy. I can’t wait to get started with a hammer and saw. What do you think, Red? Do you see possibilities?”

“Most definitely. This place is beautiful, just look at the views from every direction. I love the sheep. They look so peaceful.”

“Well,” said Paddy, “since I have your approval why don’t you move into the farmhouse? That would make more sense. Being from America I didn’t know how you would react to farm living in Ireland.”

Dane said, “My ancestors lived not far from here. In 1823 they had a farm twelve miles from Carlow Town on the main road leading south. This is a return to my roots.”

“Have a good look around, then join me in the kitchen. There’s a bottle of Jameson with your name on it. I’ll have my wife, Brianna put out supper when you’re ready to eat.”

“I can help her,” said Red. “You two have a lot of catching up to do.”

They entered the main house were introduced to Paddy’s wife. She said to Red, “Aren’t you the stylish one. What pretty clothes. We don’t get fashion like that in Carlow. In Dublin, perhaps, but I don’t think so.”

“These are from a shopping spree on our last day in Beverly Hills. They don’t seem very practical here and I don’t think we’ll be going back. Like in a witness protection program we’re looking for new identities.

“If you have an apron I can help you with supper and we’ll have a chance to chat while the men are plotting and drinking.”Have you thought of a new name?”

“My ancestry is Welsh and I’ve always liked the name Rhondda with two ‘ds’, as in the Rhondda Valley in Wales. I’ve heard it’s pretty there.”

Brianna said, “I have an idea, Rhondda Redmond. Something new and something old.”

“I like that, now we’ll have to think of a new name for my boyfriend. He’s been going by Dane Cross. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that is the name of a porn star.”

“How about Patrick, you can’t get much more Irish than that. Now for the last name. Any ideas?”

“Pierce would go well with that. Patrick Pierce. Let’s run it by him. Dane, we’ve found some new names. How would you like to be Patrick Pierce and I’ll be Rhondda Redmond?  They have a nice ring to them. What do you think?”

“Sounds fine. If, after a while, we decide we don’t like them we can change to something else.”

“Paddy piped up, “Don’t think of changing names too often. Remember, I have to arrange the paperwork. That can get a bit tricky.”

Dane and Paddy were sitting at the far end of the kitchen at a table near the log burner.  Dane asked, “What motorcycle gangs do you have in this area? There’s one in particular that we’d like to avoid.”

“So, you’ve had a wee bit of trouble, have ye? If you’re asking about 1% clubs, we have the four big ones that you have in the US . The Banditos took over a lot of the smaller clubs. Further north is Hells Angels and Devil’s Disciples. It rains so much here that motorcycles aren’t very practical, they haven’t really caught on except with weekend riders. And then there’s the fourteen Prison Gangs. The guards keep them separated or else there would be fights all the time, even so, in the last year there were 107 assaults on guards. A lot of recruiting is done in prison. Joining a gang gives you protection. Then there’s the Mafia. They control most of the drug trade.”

The evening gradually wound down, the Jameson ran out. Red now Rhondda and Dane now Patrick walked upstairs to one of the many bedrooms.

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6: They call me Red

Dane:

I awoke to the comfort of spooning Red. I loved the sight of her hair splayed over the pillow, her elegant delicate hands, her small feet, her voluptuous breasts that would always give me a hard-on, her beautiful shaved mound. I loved her scent, not just perfume but her unique fragrance, the smell of her sweat after a day in the sun, her morning breath, her pussy before she showered. I love the sound of her voice that reminds me of Brandi Carlile whose songs always give me the shivers. To me, Red is the essence of a woman. I worship and adore her and would do anything to make her happy.

She’s opening her eyes. They sparkle as they see me observing her. She yawns and says, “Like what you see?” I reply, “I love what I see and always will. Let’s shower and drive into Carlow for breakfast. I want us to become acclimatized to our new surroundings and, of course, see where my ancestors lived, possibly learn something about them. I know I have some distant relatives in the area but haven’t made any contacts.

“I thought we might breakfast at Teach Dolmain on Tullow Street. It’s Ranked #4 of 80 restaurants in Carlow and has live music.  According to Google Maps, it appears to be in the center of town. It has great reviews and I can show you lots of images to help you decide.”

Red replied in her sleepy voice, “That sounds great. I’m famished.”

“After that, said Dane, “perhaps we could visit the Delta Sensory Gardens described as “An Oasis of Peace and Tranquility”, set on a 2.5-acre site with 16 interconnecting gardens located on the outskirts of Carlow Town. The gardens have so much to offer the visitor during all the seasons of the year, from the bright and beautiful daffodils and tulips in Spring to the breathtaking colors of the autumnal foliage.”

During the drive into Carlow, I brought Red up to speed on last night’s meeting with some of my colleagues. We’re a very loose-knit group based on our military connections. We’ve fought together in Afghanistan, the Gulf War and Iraq, but since we’re not officially deployed we’ve returned to our countries of origin. We act independently but call on each other when needed. We’ll be having a visitor this evening to go over specifics of this mission.

Red asked, “If we’re having company, what shall I serve for dinner?”

“We’re not entertaining, remember you’re a full partner with a say in everything to do with this operation. If there’s anything you don’t like, we won’t do it. I’ll shop for some steaks to throw on the barbecue and vegetables for a salad. To remain anonymous, especially from the motorcycle gang we left behind, we’ll choose new names with passports and international driver’s licenses to match.

“Do you have any questions before the meeting? I assure you it will be very informal. You’ll like Paddy. As long as there’s a bottle of Jameson on the table he’ll feel right at home.”

“Tell me more about this organization. What exactly do you do?”

“We do what suits us, as in helping you with the sale of your bar. We’re philanthropic. We each have causes that we like to support. In my case, it’s homelessness and addiction.”

Red said, “That sounds easy so far.”

“Easy peasey! No worries!”

We were nearing Teach Dolmain Pub and Restaurant. I was reminded of how hungry I was. I picked up two local newspapers, The Nationalist and Carlow People. The headline on the Nationalist read “Working Girls:  Brothel operating above local employment service.” The Carlow People headline read “Bishop ‘sorry’ about mass walkouts. Parents said abortion talk was inappropriate.” The Teach Dolmain is in an old stone building with a cozy interior. We took a window seat and each ordered a full Irish breakfast with a Guinness. We could see across Tullow Street and all the regular morning activity. Sitting on a rock next to a wall was a man dressed in a grey hoodie, a black leather jacket and a huge pack full to overflowing with a pink towel strapped between the handles. He appeared homeless.

Carlow Carlow Carlow

According to the newspaper Carlow Live: “Begging bye-laws for Carlow Town have been passed by members of the Municipal District in order to tackle the “professional and aggressive begging” that has become a regular feature in the town.

“A person who contravenes a provision of the bye-law shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €1,900. Where a person is convicted of the offense and there is a continuation by him or her of the offense after his or her conviction he or she shall be guilty of a further offense on every day the continuation continues and on each such offense shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not exceeding €129 for each day on which the offense is so continued.”

The man didn’t appear to be begging, nor doing anything aggressive. In fact, I couldn’t imagine anyone being more passive.

We paid our check and left the Dolmain. I was determined to speak to the man. I walked over with Red and handed the man a 5 Euro note. I asked, “Do you mind if I rent this rock beside you for a few minutes?”

“It’s your money, it’s your rock.”

Red leaned against the concrete wall behind. Her Rodeo Drive skirt wouldn’t allow squatting modestly near a public sidewalk. To open the conversation I said, “My name is Dane, with me is my girlfriend, Red. As you may have guessed were new in town. We don’t want to cause any offense through ignorance of local customs. I’ve been told there are some places we shouldn’t go and certain people we shouldn’t cross. We’d be pleased to pay for a guide to show us around and offer some advice.”

“How much pay, how much advice?”

“That part is negotiable, the more valuable the advice the more we’re willing to pay. I have deep pockets. Is that a phrase that makes sense to you?”

“I catch your drift. I watch a lot of American movies. Before we start, I could use a drink.”

“Talking in a pub sounds like the ideal solution. Could you recommend a place where we’d both be safe and welcome?”

“Scraggs Alley isn’t far from here. As long as they know someone other than me is paying the tab they’ll probably let me in. It’s been a while since I’ve been barred. We should probably sit near the door in case the punters get too rough. Friday special on the gin is €6.50.”  

“Lead the way.” Scraggs Alley proved to be popular with college students and football enthusiasts. There was a big screen tv featuring Ireland in Gibraltar tonight for their first Euro 2020 Qualifier.

We ordered Guinness all around. Our guest of few words said, “Cheers, my name is Sean. I’m sure you have some questions. Fire away.”

“How dangerous is it here?”

“This isn’t information that you’d get at our tourist information office, but The Republic of Ireland is the deadliest place to live in the Irish and British Isles. You are almost six times more likely to be shot and killed in Ireland as you are across the Irish Sea. Supposedly, Ireland stands at the abyss when it comes to violent murderous crimes generally and specifically involving guns. Irish police have extendable batons and pepper spray – Irish criminals have Glocks and AK47’s – there can only be one winner.”

“What about Carlow Town in particular? Is it better or worse than other parts of Ireland?”

“I’ve seen boarded up shops and houses on the main street for more than a decade. Open drug dealing in pretty much every area that people could possibly congregate. Just a wretched place that shows why all the ‘social supports’ we have in place are a woeful idea. This is what you end up with.

“As far as homelessness is concerned, at last count we had 150 people being forced to sleep rough in tents, cars, under bridges or in emergency accommodation. this is in a town with a population of just over 24,000.”

“It’s been a pleasure meeting you Sean. I hope we can do business again. Are you usually around Tullow Street?”

“I’m wherever I don’t get kicked out of.”

“Here’s something to show our appreciation for your company.” Dane slipped a 50 Euro note under Sean’s glass.

Dane and Red exited Scraggs Alley and headed back to their rental car. Dane said, “I’m ready to go home. How about you? I hope that Paddy has better news for us this evening. If we can believe Sean we’re in the midst of a war zone.”

When we arrived back at the cottage Paddy was already sitting on the patio under an umbrella. His bottle of Jamieson was on the table in front of him. He rose from his chair and with a big smile he embraced me with a bear hug and said, “It’s been a while, Mate!”

“Yes, it has, first let me introduce, Red my girlfriend and a force to be reconned with.”

“Hi, Paddy,” said Red. 

I said, “You two get acquainted and I’ll bring out some drinks, fix a salad and put the steaks on the barbecue. It won’t take long, then we can relax.”

With supper out of the way, I brought out the chocolate mousse. Now, I felt relieved and was anxious to hear about Paddy’s latest adventures. He was a true storyteller and could make grocery shopping sound exciting. I told him about meeting Sean and the problems he was having.

Paddy said, “This whole Brexit thing has everybody in an uproar. The economy has been bad. Kids leave the farms and rural areas to head into Dublin. The urban areas are getting overcrowded. Reasonably priced rental accommodation is being torn down and replaced with expensive condos. Rents keep going up. It’s harder and harder for ordinary people to survive. It’s especially hard on the vets. That’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about. I have a large farm outside of Carlow Town and was thinking of renovating some of the outbuildings to create basic housing for travelers, vets who are having problems, ex-felons, addicts and anyone else who is having trouble with reentry into the system. It could be based on the model of an army base. We’d have doctors, drug rehab facilities. People could pay their own way by helping with the farm work, preparing meals. What do you think?”

I said, “I’ve had similar ideas, but didn’t know how to go about it. What do you think Red, is it a good idea, something we could do? Would you be interested? There are a lot of homeless women who could use a helping hand. Money is no problem.”

“I like it,” said Red. “I have some ideas of my own, having supervised women.”

The evening passed pleasantly. Drinks kept flowing and Paddy entertained us with an endless round of stories. He crashed on the couch in front of the fireplace. Red and I retired to our bedroom. It had been an eventful day.

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5: They call me Red

Red:

Settled in our cozy cottage in Ireland I received a message from Dane. He’s at a local pub discussing details of assignment. I’m waiting for the keys to turn in the lock, to find him at the cottage door. I miss him. How brilliant he is, he burns like a flame in my mind. I have thought about him so much while he has been gone. I want him near me where it is safe and he is never bound by expectations, only the desire to be here. I want to make a paradise for him.

Dane:

Returning in a rented car to our cottage I thought of everything and nothing, my mind drifted. What was I going to do? What was most important to me? Who did I need with me? My mind always returned to Red. Whatever I did, she had to be part of it. I didn’t even know how she felt about me. We’d never discussed anything beyond the moment. 

As soon as I turned my key in the lock Red opened the door. She must have been watching for my arrival. I have never before seen such a welcome sight. She was dressed in a light chemise, not quite see-through, but light from the roaring fireplace outlined her fabulous figure. We embraced and immediately I felt the security of her love. The world could fall apart, but as long as she was with me I would be comforted and knew that, no matter what happened, our being together was enough. Candles were lit, wine was poured into waiting glasses, sandalwood incense added to the romantic atmosphere. We sat on the overstuffed sofa and closed our eyes. This was, indeed, paradise. There were no expectations just the joy of each other’s presence. We kissed deeply. She said, “You seem stressed, love. Let me massage your shoulders.” She walked behind the sofa massaged the knots in my shoulders, my neck and then my scalp. She suggested, “I’ll run a warm bath, we can take our wine and candles to the bathroom. It will be much more relaxing.”

I was glad to get out of my clothes. I seated myself in the warm water and Red slipped behind me. I felt the cares of the day lift from my shoulders and evaporate into steam that clouded the mirrors. Long legs wrapped around me and I leaned back into warm, soft, slippery breasts. Red continued her massage at my temples. I leaned my head back on her shoulder and surrendered to her completely. I had never felt so relaxed. Her hands came around to cup my pectorals, then slid down the ridges of my abs. Her touch, as always, was magical. With a mind of its own, my cock raised its head above the soapy water. Red took it in her hand and slowly stroked up and down, changing the position of her fingers each time to explore and caress different areas; the slight ridge in front that extended from my balls to the head; the slight cleft that led to the opening slit already glistening with pre-cum, the ridge or corona, so sensitive, then down to my balls, the sac tightening with my building excitement. Her fingers were electric; tingling sensations flashed through my body. I was floating; not in water, but in another dimension — a world that we had created: safe from war, from lies and deception, from the world. It was becoming too much. I didn’t want to cum in the tub like this.

I said, “Let’s go to the bedroom. I stood and Red reached for a towel to dry my hair, shoulders, chest then lower to my crotch that she handled carefully and delicately. I grabbed another towel and draped it over her shoulders, memorizing the feel of each part of her. My face was in her hair as the towel slipped down to dry her arms, hands then to cup and weigh her fantastic breasts that came alive as my fingers lifted, separated and squeezed, finally pinching her nipples. She turned and we embraced giving me the opportunity to rub her beautiful ass as I pulled her to me. It was getting to be too much. My cock was rising between her legs and the warm wetness was enveloping the head. I lifted her in my arms and lay her gently on the bed. It seemed like months since we had made love when in actuality it was only a few days.

Red looked incredible spread out, her mass of red hair fanned on the pillow, her breasts moving gently as I mounted the mattress. I took a moment to fix her image into my memory, to return to when needed as my safe place. Here, indeed, was a paradise where everything we wanted was within hands reach. I nestled close and pulled her body against me. Looking into her warm brown eyes I could see my reflection and our future. I kissed her eyelids, the tip of her nose then found her lips that welcomed me with a restrained urgency. My tongue traced her teeth, inside her cheek then met hers twining around mine. I breathed a sigh of ecstasy having found perfection and the promise of so much more. I bent my head to become reacquainted with the supple breasts that looked so inviting. My tongue traced circles around her nipples, a sensation that I could never get enough of. She squirmed wanting my mouth and teeth. I suckled each breast then bit gently on her erect nipples. Our breathing was becoming faster. I didn’t want to rush. My cock was throbbing, being so close to the center of my desire. My kisses trailed down her stomach and lingered at her navel, continuing again to trace her shaved mound. I felt like a sculptor smoothing and caressing such an intricate shape. I got off the bed, my cock bounding in anticipation, to spread her legs and approach from her feet, her toes pink and wrinkled from the bath. I took each one into my mouth savoring the texture, the shape and the subtle taste of skin. I also felt that I was bowing to her as one might to a goddess. I was at her service to bring all the aspects of enjoyment that I had the ability to impart. My kisses covered her feet, ankles and her inner thighs. I could see the wetness between her legs that had nothing to do with our recent bath. She whimpered in anticipation. I savored the taste of her fluids as I traced her folds with my tongue. The taste was an aphrodisiac that further increased my already overwhelming sexual desire. It was all I could do to prevent myself from pouncing on her to satisfy my need. Instead, I continued tracing and prodding with my tongue, circling the engorged pearl sitting erect above her opening. I could see her mounting desire and didn’t want to cause torture so I climbed back beside her and slid two fingers into the slippery canal. I felt the different textures and rubbed and pressed the one that was slightly ridged. She squirmed in ecstasy and I knew I had found her G-spot. I asked her to tell me how it felt and how I could make it more pleasurable. She urged me to “Just keep going. Don’t stop.” Her breath was in my ear, monitoring the level of her arousal. As her excitement reached its peak. She screamed and I felt fluid squirting over my fingers. I held her tight and entered her with my throbbing cock. It wasn’t long before we both built to a mutual climax.

Red:

The cabin is sweet, it smells of sandalwood and lavender candles. We’ve arrived from another world outside and it’s ​insanity. Unspeakable things that we have little if any control over, horrific things and simple day to day things that exhaust us, haunt our rest and sleep and we have come here to a paradise we offer one another.   Dane is tired from his journey and after a brief cuddling session,  removes his clothes and steps into the warm tub of water I have run for him, placed candles around the edges and glasses of red wine within reach. My only desire is to please him when we are together. After he settles in I strip and step in behind him, soap my hands and massage his tense shoulders and back, run my hands up his neck and into his hair, I feel him relaxing, letting go. After a while I let my hand gently stroke his cock that hardens in my fingers, gently handle his balls, his breath is coming easily now and we meditate together as though in a trance.  Finally breaking the spell,  I move forward, my pussy against his buttocks and we both moan aloud.

He turns ​to face me in the big tub, my legs overlapping his. We deep kiss and the feel of his hand on my face and in my hair is arousing. He whispers something erotic in my ear and I feel the need deep in my sex.  My breast in his hands ache, the nipples harden and I long for his lips and teeth to take them into his mouth, tongue and suckle them. I feel the urgency but want to hold back, to make this last.  We dry off and he pulls me gently to the bed that we share in this paradise of freedom. When I am with him I feel no inhibitions, I am feral seeking fulfillment that only he can give me. He sits on the edge of the bed, leans back, between his legs I lick his cock, suck it, stroke it. I want him in every way.  He motions me to lie on the bed face down, to lift my ass cheeks high where he places a pillow, massages my cheeks with oil,  trails upward to my breasts to pinch the taut pink nipples, cupping my swaying breasts in his palms. He strokes his cock against my supple ass cheeks  and when I am wet, my juices running down my thigh, he places the head of his penis  against my clitoris, finding it hard and throbbing he circles it briefly,  finds my G spot with two fingers and I bite my lip, drawing a slight taste of blood.  Sliding downward his cock penetrates my pussy. I am breathing fast and moaning, he tells me to bear down and when I do juices squirt against him and down my legs, the feeling is incredible and he pushes deep inside me and we come in waves. ​Facing him again, I kiss his face and run my fingers through his silver hair and we know that this is our place when we need connection,  freedom from worries,  where we share our minds and bodies.

Dane:

We wrapped ourselves in bathrobes, I put another log in the fireplace, refill our wine glasses and we snuggle on the overstuffed sofa. Through the windows is a beautiful view of the lake through the trees. Birds are singing and fluttering from branch to branch. A pair of golden eagles soar in sweeping circles. Bullfrogs and crickets add to nature’s sweet symphony. At last, the troubles of the world seem to have lifted from my shoulders and I breathe a sigh of relief. I pull Red closer to inhale the scent of her hair. I am indeed in paradise.

Without wishing to spoil the romantic moment I feel I should share some of the thoughts that have been mulling in my mind. The world is at war and it is impossible to sift the news from the propaganda. Global corporations and financial institutions ultimately control every aspect of what we once considered to be the land of the free. Accountable only to international board members whose focus is profit, these monsters are free to transgress national boundaries, laws and elected representatives. Our own government lies to us, makes secret treasonous deals and accepts economic situations that would be scandalous if made public.

Red said, “You are so sexy love, but that is not why I care for you so much, you are more special than you know, a beautiful man with a huge heart.”
You are an amazing lover.”

I don’t know what I did to deserve such a glowing tribute but it was better than her remark that “I was almost as good as riding her Harley.”

red words
the color of love
passion and desire
bathe me in the red
of the paradise
you have created

After Red fell asleep my head was still spinning with world upheaval; lack of trust in my own government allowing American corporations to aid and abet the enemy for the sake of profits; tens of millions of probable deaths worldwide. What possible good could come at such a high price in human life? What could I do? I needed to talk with Red She is the organized one, compassionate, sensitive as well as a fighter. She would know how we could be of some service to the greater good. Mostly what I wanted was holding her in my arms, breathing in the scent of her hair, feeling her warmth; my vision of paradise. 

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4: They call me Red

Eventually we had to leave St. Kitts. My business partners had contacted me and requested that I join them at The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The reason was a mystery, obviously something top secret that couldn’t be relayed via email.

Red:

After settling in at this landmark luxury hotel Dane was called away to a meeting in another suite. I lay down on the huge four poster bed and took a nap, I felt a bit jet lagged, when I woke the room was dark and a glance at the clock said it was after nine PM.  I showered and washed my hair, pulled it up in a butterfly clip, a few tendrils left clinging to my cheek bones. Other than a very deep shade of red lipstick I was without make up and decided to forego the eye shadow. I dressed in a charmeuse slip of a  dress, silky, satiny, it clung to my buttocks and breasts, bare beneath the sheer layer. I wanted to smell divine for him, body cream and perfume, light but sultry.

I felt nervous, perhaps he couldn’t get away.  Should that be the case I’d probably end up at the downstairs bar. I despise  being alone in a strange place.  I don’t like being alone. I had left the door unlocked and around ten thirty he arrived looking wonderful.  He announced that our next venue was to be Ireland, the birthplace of his ancestors. I was excited about the getaway, looking forward to seeing a country that I had only read about.  He was beaming and picked me up, swung me about, his lips on mine, kissed me deep and long and our bodies clung to one another, it felt good to hold him. I felt that warm and comfortable connection that I adore. We took the elevator down to the famous Polo Lounge. Manager Pepe De Anda showed us to an alcove for intimate dates. Dane ordered a late night dessert named Sunset Boulevard 17: Baked Alaska with Swirled Passion Fruit, Orange-Guava Sorbet, toasted Meringue, Grand Marnier. To toast the occasion he ordered a bottle of Ace of Spades champagne, filled our flutes and we held them high, clinking glasses, cheers to a wonderful getaway.

Dane explained some of the details of the new assignment. He had tickets to Carlow, Ireland, flight time 10 hours, 20 minutes. We’d be flying Aer Lingus. I always chuckle when I hear that, it makes me think of cunnilingus, my favorite indoor sport. I’m feeling horny already. On his laptop he showed me pictures and reviews of our next lodgings, the Rath Bán Farm Cottage in County Wicklow near the border of County Carlow. Following is a review by Daryl one of the previous guests: Had a fantastically relaxing stay here with my partner. We spent most of the time relaxing by the roaring fire. It felt like a home away from home. Pádraig was super helpful and friendly, but never intrusive! Would definitely recommend and we will probably be back soon!

“Dane, I’m blown away. I was amazed by our accommodations in St Kitts, but the Polo Lounge is where movie stars dine. How did you manage to get a reservation? I’m overwhelmed.”

Dane:

“In my business clients pay my expenses. They expect the best service and I charge for the best accommodations. They can afford it and I can deliver what they want. Discretion is their prime requirement. They’re willing to pay for it.

“Here is your own personal JP Morgan Chase Palladium Visa Credit card. It’s made of actual palladium and gold, etched with your information and account number. It’s only available to high net worth individuals who have an investment banking relationship with JP Morgan’s wealth management brokerage. Just showing this card will  get you into places you never imagined. I don’t know what shopping is going to be like in Ireland, but here we’re within walking distance of Rodeo Drive. Since we’re not leaving for a couple of days, perhaps you’d enjoy some retail therapy. There’s no spending limit on your card, just remember that we’ll be travelling, so suitcase limits will be a factor at the airports. Have fun, or as an old friend would say ‘Fill your boots.’ “

Red:

I smoked a cigarette, wavering on my vow to give up the nasty habit. I could relax here. Later,  at Dane’s suggestion we went back to the room.  Inside he felt me through the sheer dress, then let it fall to the floor. His hand cupped the curve of my breasts and kissed the buds, licked and sucked. My knees felt watery and I sat down on the edge of the bed, removed  his belt and he slipped from his clothes. We fell back wrapped around each other, the heat of our bodies raw and needing.  My legs wrapped around him and my hand found his hardened cock, I spread my legs wide, I wanted him and ran his cock up and down my pussy, I held it teasing at the entrance, ran it through the silky fold to linger at my clitoris, then when I could wait no longer I slid it inside me, my breath exhaled with the ecstasy of his  strokes, my belly against him, our hips tightly together. I arched higher instinctively, wanting more and more. He thrust harder and faster as we reached our climax, I held my breath with the exquisite thrill of orgasm sweeping through me, tightening my sex around his cock, he went with the rhythm of my orgasmic spasms until he reached his climax with a gruff groan, a lion over his lioness, cum flooding her, slipping down her thighs, her hand  cupping her pussy on his withdrawal, tasting the wetness left behind.

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3: They call me Red

St. Kitts

On the plane, looking out at the fluffy clouds, it felt like we were leaving all our troubles behind. It was only two nights ago that I was in a bar fight with a biker and left him dead on the floor. That wouldn’t go unnoticed or unremembered. Bikers have an international communications network. We’ll have to remain below their radar. If, or when, we return stateside we’ll need new identities, passports and a new location. Red’s car is in the underground parking garage at the Sailport. We can’t be assured that it isn’t being watched or hasn’t been tampered with. It’s only a car.

America is in turbulence. Red is as upset about the current world crisis as I am. We both see the future as a scary place with our various groups of friends now being discriminated against and assaulted even more than they had been in the past. The Klan has been more active lately, openly staging torch lit parades, wearing full regalia. This vigilante group stands for what they consider to be white supremacy although they also hate followers of the Catholic and Jewish faith. They vilify African Americans, beating and lynching them for no reason. In short they declare war on any individual or minority group who stands in the way of their bigoted ideals and they do this behind the cowardly anonymity of white pointed hoods and gowns. No one is safe from this maniacal mob.

Airborne we’re at peace. We held hands, closed our eyes and imagined a magical future. Red snuggled close to me and calmed me with her regular breathing. I too fell asleep and awoke to the airline hostess announcing, “Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your tables and seats backs are in their full upright position. Make sure your belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have just been cleared to land at the Robert L. Bradshaw Airport in Basseterre on the island of St Kitts. Please make sure one last time your seat belt is securely fastened. The flight attendants are currently passing around the cabin to make a final compliance check and pick up any remaining cups and glasses. Thank you for flying American Airlines.”

St. Kitts in the Caribbean is an island of intoxicating natural beauty, sunny skies, warm waters and white sandy beaches. A couple of weeks without pressure, without listening to news of the world, to simply be in a world of our own sounds idyllic.

Upon arrival at Ottley’s Plantation Inn we were immediately struck by the warm historical appearance of the building. With the luxurious yet comfortable rattan furnishing we even had our own private outdoor plunge pool accessible from the main room. It felt like the chaos of the real world had been lifted from our shoulders. I closed the wooden louvered blinds enough for privacy while still allowing in the fresh Caribbean breeze. Fresh flowers and champagne on ice awaited us. We dropped our bags, undressed and flopped on the gigantic bed. It was heavenly to lie on our backs, gaze at the ceiling fan and know that there would be no distractions.

Red said, “I really should take a shower.”

I said, “I like you just the way you are, but if you insist, we should take it together.” I carried her to the shower room, adjusted the water to a relaxing temperature. Entering the cubicle I kissed her gently on her mouth, sucked on her lower lip, gazed into her golden brown eyes. This truly was heaven, her warm breath on my cheek, fingers traced through my hair. I kissed my way down her neck to her throat. Her breathing and heartbeat indicated her mounting excitement. Her skin had its own unique taste that brought back so many memories. Cupping her breast I brought her nipple to my mouth where I licked, sucked and bit into the tender flesh. Her response was immediate as she quivered and arched her back. These wonderful white orbs now lathered in soap suds moved with my fingers as I kneaded them tenderly appreciating the miracle that was us.

“Red, what I want is to be the best possible lover for you. I’ll do anything to make that happen. Let’s plan to learn Tantra together. I’ll want to be part of your wildest fantasies, take you places you’ve never been before.” I looked at her as if for the first time; stunning, breathtaking, mouth watering. Rodin’s sculpture of Galatea or Gerome’s painting of the same subject — an impossible feminine ideal that had come to life under the artist’s touch. That is what I saw before me. We pulled together, skin to skin, enjoying this marvelous moment. After washing and patting dry with the luxurious towels I carried her to the bed.

I slid south tracing her sensuous curves with my tongue, pausing briefly to dip into her navel. From the bottom of the bed I slid my hands under her luscious buns, lifting her and engulfing her sex with my mouth. I sucked it like a peach and tasted the sweet liquid that was her passion. Slowly my tongue travelled up her slit stopping short of her swelling clitoris. My tongue meandered her slippery folds, teasing and tormenting her desire. I puckered my lips then sucked on her clit, flicking it with my tongue. She writhed under my ministrations. With her hands on each side of my head she pulled me deeper. I rubbed with my nose and speared her opening with my tongue. I continued until I could feel her coming to a climax, then bit gently on the pearl between my teeth. She exploded in an orgasm that wet my face. I gently blew on her angry looking clit. Standing, I took both ankles in one hand and lifted her ass off the bed. With the other hand I smacked first her left cheek then her right, alternating until I counted ten. Lowering her legs I took her wrists in my hand and held them above her head. My other hand slid behind her neck and grasped a handful of hair. Under my control I spread her legs with my knees and plunged my lubricated cock deep inside. Ramming into her with my balls slapping her ass we both came in an explosion of ecstasy. Our bodies slippery with sweat and the fluids of our lovemaking we lay still and let the fresh Caribbean breeze wash over us.

Red:

In St. Kitts I could breathe again. I adore Dane for bringing me here, if only briefly I could escape my fear of a human catastrophe looming over us at home. Here with him the sounds of nature held a certain freedom, the birds flying with abandon high above, disappearing into safety among the banana trees, dipping for cover below the crowns. Dane was walking the beach. The nearness of him was affecting me, I felt the need for him. I longed to have his body next to mine, his scent, musk and cedar. I had missed him more than I cared to admit, I have a need to make love to him. I know he adores women and that he fucks them…but of all my lovers and would be lovers, he is the the one I crave most.

We lay on the bed, discussed world issues, in what way he is involved. He daily gets calls from his contacts around the world. Growing quiet we turned to one another, I wanted to make love. Urgently I helped him unbelt his trousers and naked he slipped my tee shirt over my head, buried his face in my hair, pulled my wrap around skirt and panties off. His lips drew my nipples into his mouth and he sucked and tugged them, I felt the most unbearable need in my belly and sex. I stroked his cock and sucked it, licked it like a starving feral cat. Pulling me upward he buried his face between my thighs and I came in wet waves of release. Above me his knees pushed mine wide and he entered me and with slow and steady thrusts that brought me to a frenzy, his fingers pulling at my nipples, my fingernails raking across his shoulders set off my orgasm and I pushed further against his cock, I wanted to feel him come inside me, I did not know when I would have him this way again. Afterward I washed him gently with a warm cloth, kissed his body as though it were a temple.

laid back in dusky shadows,
sheer mirages drift across our bodies.
Our hands grip Cuba Libre,
the clink of ice keeps perfect time with Coltrane.
Breathing in your scent,
sandalwood and cedar,
a thousand moths rise up
pleading to be freed.
I want to take you with me
to a seething force of surge
that penetrates the shoreline
into the ancient caves
where the footprints of lovers
are lapped up by hungry waves.

Dane:

I said, “Now it’s my turn.” She scrambled to her side of the bed anticipating what was to happen. For a minute I just stared at the beauty before me, then I rolled over and gently kissed her on her soft mouth. She responded by sucking on my bottom lip. Our tongues met and danced to music that only we could hear. I looked into her golden brown eyes and an eternity seemed to pass. I felt I was looking into her soul and all was good.

I awoke in soft bedding, with the scent of the Caribbean on the breeze. It felt so good I didn’t want to open my eyes. I had been dreaming of an erotic encounter with Red and had climaxed in my sleep. The pleasure sensation continued. I opened my eyes to find her between my legs sucking my cock and gently massaging my balls. With a mischievous smile she said, “I’ve been waiting to see the expression on your face when you awoke.”

Our bodies were responding to our genitals being in such close proximity to each other. I was still hard and wet from being in Red’s mouth. My cock had a mind of its own and gently probed the folds of her sex. As if for the first time it explored leaving a trail of slippery wetness behind. She gasped as her clitoris was circled by my pulsing glans. It descended into her already wet passage. The feeling was heavenly. Before pressing further I wanted to commit this ecstatic feeling to memory, beginning a new page in the scrapbook of our already wonderful and exciting sexual adventure. While looking into her eyes I pressed an inch further, then pulled back slightly. I could see her want and desire. She arched her back trying to engulf more of me, but I hesitated just inside her opening. I could see her frustration building, so I pressed firmly ahead until I was halted by her cervix. Such indescribable pleasure. I felt my balls tightening, urging me to continue. Inserting two fingers I felt for the ribbed surface of her G spot. With my thumb pressing the sides her hooded clit I continued the steady pumping in and out. Her fingernails dug into my back. The pain was exquisite. My pumping and her arching her back to meet me increased in speed and abandon. She grasped my balls and I entered a frenzy while still keeping our shared rhythm. The pressure was building from deep within and mounted until I felt I would lose consciousness. I felt my eyeballs turning back in their sockets. I heard Red screaming, “Fuck me, fuck me!” as we both fell into orgasmic bliss.

On to more practical matters, I had promised, Red a new wardrobe. St Kitts is known for their beautiful batik fabrics. We planned to visit Sun Island Clothes for swim attire and other essentials also a Harley Davidson store that I knew would be of interest to Red. Another stop on the itinerary would be at the Chop Shop Salon Spa. We both looked forward to a full body massage, manicure and pedicure with complimentary Reflexology. Red suggested that I get a full Brazilian wax. I didn’t know what that was but it sounded relaxing.

Red:

That night I lay naked in the soft bedding,  listened to the fan softly whir above us, the soft breath of my lover beside me, occasionally quickening in what I knew must be an erotic dream. My hands and fingers roamed and teased my naked body, my nipples firm and aching for his touch, I wet my fingers with my tongue and ran them along the folds of my pussy. Unable to resist the need for him, I gently ran my hand over his cock and felt it stiffen beneath my touch, pulling my hair back I went down between his thighs, flicked my velvety tongue over the head of his penis. I watch it move forward and I thought it was the most erotic and sensual vision I had ever seen. I felt the juices of my own sex fill and spill out onto my inner thigh and perineum. I opened my mouth pulling his cock inside.   I sucked it as I had not done before, deep into my throat, my head back,  I let my fingers find my clit and swirl the wet swollen folds and tightening entrance. not once losing rhythm, I wanted him to come in my mouth, I wanted to swallow it, I was a ravenous animal who needed  all of him.  He awoke and placed his hand on my head, moving his cock in and out of my mouth, moaning for me not to stop. He throbbed violently in my mouth, my tongue licking, flicking, my hand stroking the shaft as it moved out of my lips, only to thrust in again. My hand caressed his balls, they tightened, pulled upward and I felt his cum fill my mouth, run out on my lips, I swallowed and wiped my mouth against his belly. I lay there and he lay back on the pillow.

Pulling me upward to his lips our tongues teased and forced our lips open wide, he sucked and tugged and bit my nipples soothing the ache, sending an urgent desire that only he could satisfy. I bit his lower lip, he rose over me, began eating my pussy, massaging my G spot with his fingers,  “Fuck me…Fuck me”  I pleaded, my  nails scraped his shoulders and he moaned and pulled my clit between his teeth vigorously flicking and massaging it, I exploded in his mouth, my eyes closed so tightly with every muscle in my body a spasm of ecstasy. I looked deeply into his eyes,and we smiled slightly,” I want to be your little slut”, I’ve never had a man like you.

Dane:

We woke early, ate breakfast and drank Mimosas in the dining room, then picked fruit and other goodies from the buffet. I stopped at our room to grab a blanket and a bottle of champagne for a picnic on the beach. Red guided the way to a secluded cave.  We spread the blanket, dropped our belongings along with our beachwear. It felt glorious running through the surf then swimming to shoulder deep calm water. Red floated on her back while I moved between her legs and placed my cupped hands on the cheeks of her ass.  I was presented with a rare tropical delicacy seasoned with seawater. Like a fresh peach ready to be devoured, or an oyster on the half shell, my mouth watered. I brought her to my mouth and licked slowly from the bottom of her slit to the top. I heard moans of pleasure. The tip of my tongue traced her silky folds, circled the pearl where I sucked and flicked with my tongue. I hummed in a deep voice that resonated on my lips. While flicking rapidly I inserted two fingers in her opening and rubbed her G spot. I could feel spasms of pleasure as she squeezed my head between her thighs and arched her back. There was a dreamy expression on her face that begged kissing.  My hands explored her body, cupped her breasts and pinched her pink nipples.  I dunked my head under water and kissed, sucked and bit her hard buds. My cock was hard as I pulled her to me and sought her warm pussy.  With my hands on her ass cheeks I alternated slowly pushing into her then pulling back. We kissed deeply and I luxuriated in the feel of our bodies and tongues dancing in time to the warm waves swaying us back and forth in an endless rhythm. It wasn’t long before I felt a surge deep within. My legs felt like jelly, my eyes turned back and I exploded inside her.   When my legs regained their strength I lifted her with one arm under her knees the other at her back.  She hugged my neck and planted a multitude of sweet, salty kisses on my mouth and face. I set her down on our blanket then popped the bottle of champagne. I poured it into the flutes I’d brought for the occasion. We nibbled on grapes, strawberries, nuts and bit into lush mangoes, juice dribbling down our chins. We licked each other’s faces, ate more, drank more, then feeling fully satiated I pulled out some weed and rolled a joint.

Red:

Sex in the ocean was magical, an ethereal erotic experience as wild as the creatures that inhabit the sea. Spent we let the current part us, only to find one another again, his arms lifting me from the waves out onto the dunes, gently lowering me to the blanket just outside the deserted cave. Naked but for beach towels, Dane popped  a bottle of champagne and we sipped slowly, feeling the bubbles burst on our tongues, the delicious fruity wine went straight to my head as we watched with awe the red sun dip below the sea. Leaning back on his bundled beach towel, he rolled a joint and settled back, offering me a smoke I inhaled deeply escaping the past and future as the smoke exhaled into the air and drifted away.   Oblivious to  time we suddenly  realized it was growing dark. We walked leisurely to our room. I felt all inhibitions dissolve as I watched Dane stretched out on the bed, his tan body a invitation to ecstasy. I whispered to him,” I want to fuck you, do everything with you”. His smile told me he knew I was still feeling the  weed. I wrapped a sheer scarf around his wrists and tied it to the posts of the bed.  Straddling him, my lips kissed my and tongue flicked his, bit his lower lip and ear lobes. I nuzzled his neck, sucking there as well. Lifting his head  he found my breasts,  bit and teased my nipples, I moaned and pressed forward as he took in the pink circles around my firm buds. I ran my long red nails down his arms tied above his head. Light pink marks were left behind. I let them travel down his chest and abdomen, my fingers closing around his hard cock, I teased it with my tongue ring, swirling it around the head and down the shaft, finally taking it fully into my mouth I sucked until he was nearly ready to come. I stopped, easing forward like a stalking cat, my breast at his lips again, “bite them please”… he bit until I said that’s enough. Behind me, my hand found his cock very hard and throbbing. I released his hands from the binds and face to face on our sides, I guided his cock inside me, my legs around him he held me closely by my ass cheeks and began to glide in and out very slowly, filling me and then pulling back, and again, slowly. When we felt we were about to orgasm, we stayed still, then once again began to fuck slowly, the intensity rising, I wanted to stay this way forever, but the need for release was building  and he began to thrust harder and faster as I pushed against him to feel his cock  against my cervix. It set off an intense tightening of my pussy around his cock and it happened, lightening and thunder, I bit my lip to hold back the cry of pleasure, he bit and sucked at my throat, moaned until we were spent.  Our bodies separated tenderly, we  rolled over and went  to sleep. H

We breakfasted  at the Inn. The banana pancakes were amazing, as were the omelettes and French toast. Today we’re wore hiking boots, brought snorkel gear and a picnic lunch to visit the Devil’s Caves of Nevis. Red had only hinted at some of the spectacular attractions we were about to see. Leaving our suite we admired the lush greens contrasted with the blue of the Caribbean. As we walked Red told me some of the history of the area. As early as 2000 BC, the island was inhabited by the Carib people. Christopher Columbus landed in 1492 and british immigration began shortly after.  In 1695 King Charles established the island of St. Christopher as a Crown Colony of Britain. One of the  English nicknames for Christopher is Kit. Slave labor was used on the tobacco plantations and later to cultivate, harvest and manufacture sugar and its by products — rum and molasses. Slavery was abolished in 1834, but it was only in 1952 that Adult Suffrage was introduced. Prior to this, the right to vote in political elections was based on land ownership and income. This qualification barred most of the people of African descent from being eligible to vote. In 1967 St Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla became self governing.

2: They call me Red

On the Road

“Where to partner? There’s no need to pack. I’ll buy you anything you need as a starting bonus. How does a sandy beach with palm trees and Iced Margaritas sound? Maybe we could share a hammock in the shade and you could read Aristophanes to me as we’re lulled by the crashing surf.  I hear that St. Kitts is nice this time of year. Just a thought.”

“Well, since I have to start over someplace that sounds as good a place as any.”

“Excellent, I’ll make some phone calls and have our tickets and itinerary waiting for us  at the desk of the Sailport. I’ll arrange for a large suite with an ocean view. The Skyye Bar and Grill overlooks the swimming pool and serves lunch and dinner. We should arrive just in time for happy hour.”

We entered Tampa as the sun was going down — an explosion of yellow, red and purple over darkening waves. After leaving Red’s car with the valet we entered the marble columned reception area. As promised our tickets, itinerary and room pass were handed to us at the reception desk. The rooms were large and we were greeted by a bouquet of tropical flowers, chilled André Jacquart champagne, Grey Goose vodka, Imperial Osetra caviar and Carrs biscuits on the circular coffee table near the l-shaped sofa.

“May I offer you a drink?,” asked Dane.

“This is a change, you serving me drinks. Is the champagne dry?”

“Brut Nature with hints of praline and hazelnut, but also displaying fresh citrus, chalk and mineral nuances. It’s especially good with caviar.”

“Sounds delightful. I love this breathtaking view of Tampa.” Dane poured their drinks then said, “Let me try to find some relaxing music. How about Blues Train, Cousin Mary and Naima by Coltrane to start.”

“A man after my own heart. You haven’t been reading my diary have you?”

“No, I’ve been reading your mind. What a fascinating mind it is.”

“You’re starting to scare me now. I’m not used to be in the company of a gentleman. Or, are you a stalker?”

“Fear not, I have only your best interests at heart. I propose a toast to a long and successful partnership.”

“Thank you, my sentiments exactly.”

“I also have menus from Ocean Prime, Oyster Catchers, Rusty Pelican, or we could order room service when you start to feel hungry.”

Red was lounging in the corner of the sofa, “Lets relax before thinking of food. Maybe we need to work up an appetite. This champagne seems to be going to my head. Would you pour me another please? Sit close, let’s get to know each other.”

“That’s an offer I can’t refuse.” Dane removed his shoes and crawled closer to reach her luscious lips. “I’ve wanted this for a long time,” he whispered.

“Me too,” she sighed, making room for him. Their first kiss was slow and sweet. Each exploring with lips and tongue the features of the other. Dane smothered his face in Red’s cascading waves of hair. “Mmmmmmm,” he moaned, as his lips brushed her ear, then behind working their way down her neck. Her perfume was subtle, yet exotic, taking him to mysterious places accessible only in his imagination. Her skin warm, welcoming. He traced a trail of kisses and bites along her collarbone to the space at the hollow of her elegant, vulnerable throat. His tongue traced her name then he blew a soft whisper across her damp, inviting flesh.

“Dane, tell me more about your work. I’m not quite sure what I’m getting myself into, or why you’d want to be partners.  Why me?”

“In the broadest terms, I  help people.  At the end of the day my intention is to leave this world better than I found it by living with purpose.  I think we have similar objectives in life. I’ve seen you as a rebel biker chick, a server in hospitality who has an easy banter with customers. I’ve also seen you as an employer with the interests of your staff at heart. I admire  those qualities.

“On a daily basis I aim for simplicity and balance, to live in the moment.  I meditate to free my mind of distractions and to be open to new situations. I strive to follow the principles of truth, honor and equality. I oppose hatred, bigotry and racism. I follow Dan Savage’s Campsite Rule:  “I must leave the world better than I found it.”  As I said before, I like to think that I’m working on the right side of the fence most of the time. I have no hidden agendas. What you see is what you get.

“I offer a service for a price, not profit based, but on equalizing the balance. I believe that greed is very detrimental to the soul. I also keep an open mind. I was taught by my brother that everyone has a story. Everyone knows something that I can learn from. I’m a student not a teacher. Listening to others, and learning from them is very important. Life isn’t black and white, there are a lot of grey areas. Right and wrong aren’t always what they appear to be. Justice is a matter of negotiation. Any lawyer will tell you that.

“When a client approaches me with a problem my first concern is that I do as little harm as possible. That can be tricky, so I keep my options flexible. I try to respond with reasonable force.  Jack Dempsey has been misquoted as saying, ‘the best defence is a good offence’.  In his book, Championship Fighting he states, ‘The best defense in fighting is an aggressive defense.’ He goes on to say, ‘Each defensive move must be accompanied by a counter-punch or be followed immediately by a counterpunch.  You may have the best attack in the world; but if you’re an open target—if you’re a ‘clay pigeon’—you’ll likely get licked by the first experienced scrapper you tackle.’

“Muhammad Ali said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” As partners we’ll discuss the client’s needs and decide whether or not we can provide an effective solution. Every case is different. Am I making sense, or am I just rambling?

“I should tell you that I’ve been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, so if I start acting weird there is a reason for it. I have nightmares, flashbacks, trouble sleeping. I may get jumpy or angry for no reason.  I may space out at times…

“Let’s not talk. There are more important things we can do to occupy our time. Kiss me again.”

“Gladly.” He pulled her close, their lips met and a cloud of euphoria settled on him. It was as if the two of them were alone on a desert island, sea breezes, rustling palm fronds, the soothing crash of surf, tranquility. Everything he wanted in life was now in his arms. Her breath was coming in gasps. She undid the buttons on his shirt and ran her hands over his pectoral muscles and his abs. Fumbling at his belt buckle and zipper she found his throbbing erection. He pulled off his shirt and slipped off his pants with his underwear. She did the same. Flesh against flesh they consumed each other. His mouth found her breast. Sucking her nipple was heaven. His breathing was ragged. He couldn’t get enough of her. He raised his head then traced kisses down her stomach to her navel where his tongue drew ever expanding circles. He moved his body further down the sofa and slid his hands to grip the cheeks of her ass. Thighs draped over his shoulders as he dove into her wetness. She tasted of ambrosia, succulently sweet and divine, nectar of the gods. His tongue explored and thrust its way into her warm slippery opening. Pressure was building.  He felt famished and she was his only nourishment. His tongue lapped from the bottom of her slit to the top ending at her engorged clit. With his tongue he circled, then sucked the bud into his mouth. He milked it with his lips, grazed it with his teeth. Two fingers slid inside her and found her g spot as his thumb moved to her clit. Slowly but firmly he pressed and rubbed, back and forth, beckoning her to come. Straining as she arched her back and crushed his head closer with her hands. His nose rubbed the swollen nub. She was nearly delirious as her pleasure mounted and then burst in a flood of ecstasy.

Dane said casually, “We have a decision to make. We could get dressed and go to a fancy restaurant, or we could order from Pearly’s Beach Eats and spend our time in bed. Pearly’s offers a few interesting items: Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, Fresh spring greens, tomatoes, red onions, pecans, feta cheese, apple chips, and apple vinaigrette, topped with choice of a scoop of chicken salad or grilled chicken, or Blackened Shrimp Cobb Salad, Chopped Romaine, blackened shrimp, ham, bacon, hard boiled eggs, feta, and diced tomatoes, served with lemon poppy dressing. “Do either of those appeal to you?”

“They both sound good let’s share and spend the time in bed.”

Dane made a phone call and put on the bathrobe provided by the hotel. He answered the door when the bell rang. He was fishing in his wallet for a tip, when the delivery boy stopped him. “Hey man, don’t worry, you go for it.”

Surprised, Dane turned to see Red posed seductively, still naked, on the couch.

He said, “You certainly gave him a thrill.”

“He probably deserved it after a hard day. You didn’t say we should get dressed. That was one of the options.” They ate their lunch picnic style on the carpet with their backs against the couch. The food was delicious and they fed each other from the take out containers.  After washing the meal down with another glass of champagne Dane bent down to place one arm under Red’s shoulders and the other under her knees. He effortlessly carried her to the bedroom and laid her gently on the already turned down bed.

Red asked, “Dane, are you intending to have your way with me?”

“Yes, any objections?”

“No, not at all. I’m looking forward to it.”

Her perfect body against the white sheets, her red hair splayed on the pillow, she looked like an angel.  He saw another side of her — vulnerable, defenceless. He lay beside her tenderly tracing her features with his fingers. For some reason she was different from his many other liaisons. He kissed her softly, told her his innermost thoughts; he spoke of his life, joys and sorrows. She could barely meet his eyes, those silver pools of dreams, and when she did she felt him slip beneath her skin as though  they were one entity.  She made love to him then, rocked him slowly, felt his tongue circle and suck her breasts. Ran her hands and nails down his back, encircled him with her legs, she never wanted to let him go. Their lovemaking was tenuous, exploratory, illuminating. How was this possible? He’d long lost track of the number of women he’d shared a bed with. He had some regrets, but in the end he was here by his own choices. After making love she fell asleep in his arms. For the first time in his life he felt contented. If he were to die tomorrow he could say he’d lived a full life.

Night was about to commence. He eased his arm from under her and left asleep in the bed. Sleeping had always been a challenge for him. Sometimes it happened, sometimes it didn’t. He had a ritual of listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on his iPod programmed to repeat. Every note was indelibly printed onto his mind. Wearing his headphones, lying on the couch he drifted into a state of limbo where he would do battle with flashbacks, nightmares and muscle spasms. Sometimes he would pace in circles around the room, do calisthenics, try to watch tv. The porn channel was boring. He watched a documentary on the Black Panthers, a group he had supported when he was younger. He had met one of them at a heavy equipment training course held in Charlotte, North Carolina. He invited the man out for a drink but was told, ‘I appreciate the offer and would like to accept, but places where I can drink wouldn’t allow you and places where you could drink wouldn’t allow me.’ At the same course he met, Robert a member of the Ku Klux Klan. At a local bar he sat at his right with twenty others drinking beer around a large table. Robert explained that he was brought up in the Klan, it was family. He said it was like belonging to the boy scouts — they’d get together, have meetings, but instead of a campfire they’d burn a cross or a church. He said he had nothing against people of color, but he didn’t have the choice of leaving the Klan or their activities, he couldn’t even leave the state without permission. As the night wore on and the conversation got louder locals from nearby tables stated their points of view. The topic arose of how people of color were  better treated in North Carolina than they were in Mississippi. Something in the conversation irritated Robert who stood up and asked, ‘Who’d like to see a cross burning in their yard tonight.’ Without a word, half of the patrons walked out, their drinks still on the table. The power of the spoken word and the climate of fear had been revealed. That was a moment and that sentence has been seared in memory. As an outsider Dane knew nothing of the histories that had brought this moment to bear.

Another incident involved riding shotgun with five other friends. We were driving through a dimly lit area of Charlotte when next to my ear I heard a loud bang. I turned around to see a back seat passenger with handgun drawn and sparks flying off the pavement near a black man. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I wasn’t trying to kill him, just wanted to see him dance.’ The thought repelled him then as now. What could he have done? An inexperienced boy from the prairie, beyond his depth and uncertain of the future, he did nothing.

Soul On Ice was required reading for my Humanities class at York University. It’s a memoir and collection of essays by Eldridge Cleaver who became an early leader of the Black Panther Party. A group of Black Panthers spoke to us in a theater as part of course content.  Angela Davis had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. She had addressed civil and women’s rights, poverty and peace, health care and prison reform. This led to her arrest and trial on charges of kidnapping, conspiracy and murder.  Davis’ imprisonment for over a year inspired the internationtreated ‘Free Angela’ movement; her case became a symbol of the abusive power of the criminal justice system against minorities. Free Angela Davis posters adorned university hallways and dorm rooms as did those of the Grateful Dead, Jim Morrison — American Poet and Robert Crumb’s Keep On Truckin‘. Chaka Khan attended several civil rights rallies and joined the Black Panther Party in 1967. She went on to win ten music awards and was nominated for another dozen.

It was easy to be impressed and influenced by these highly educated celebrities, as opposed to President Richard Nixon, nicknamed ‘Tricky Dicky.’ An election question concerning his appearance was, ‘Would you buy a used car from this man?’ He was defeated by Kennedy, but won against Johnson. The Panthers spoke against the Vietnam War whereas Nixon supposedly prolonged it for political gain.

Another group, possibly the Weather Underground or Weathermen, also spoke to our class. After concluding their presentation they asked, ‘Why are you people just sitting there? Why aren’t you out protesting or throwing bombs.’

They say that hindsight is 20/20. Why is that? What’s wrong is wrong is wrong no matter when it happens. When was slavery and oppression ever right.  They talk about diversity as if it were something new. Everyone is unique. I don’t need to follow another’s religion, or sexual orientation to accept their friendship. We don’t have to be of the same race. These are imposed conditions not choices. The sociological theory of a generation gap first came to light in the 1960s, when the younger generation (later known as Baby Boomers) seemed to go against everything their parents had previously believed in terms of music, values, governmental and political views. My brother John and I were born fifteen years apart. We both liked music by ‘The Killer’ Jerry Lee Lewis, otherwise we disagreed on pretty much everything.

One point of contention involved Kent State University and the shootings of unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War when confronted members of the Ohio National Guard. Twenty-nine guardsmen fired approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. John’s opinion, being a Korean War vet, was that anyone stupid enough to put a flower in the rifle of an armed guard deserved to be shot. I vehemently disagreed with such callous waste of human life.

The night passed fretfully. I awoke having to pee, then tried to escape the dream I’d had been living while in a somnambulistic state. Red awakened me wearing a black sexy negligee, “Hey, what are you doing here. Come back to bed.”

“I was having nightmares and didn’t want to disturb you.”

“Can you tell me about them, or are they too painful?”

“They don’t make a lot of sense — explosions of light and sound, being chased, closeups of horrendous faces, blood, lots of blood.”

“Hold me, perhaps I can help you to relax.” Enjoying the comfort of her head on his chest her body nestled close, naked breasts against his skin, the scent of her hair, her perfume transported him to another world where he drifted into peaceful sleep.

He awoke refreshed with Red lying beside him, her head resting on her hand watching him intently.

“It’s good to see you awake. You looked so at ease when you finally fell asleep. How do you feel?”

“Great.” Her hand slid down to his already hard cock. She said, “Somebody else is awake. I think I’ll reacquaint myself with him. She slid between his legs and licked his erection from the base to the head while still holding his gaze. “Mmmm, you taste like us last night. How delightful. She swirled her tongue around the rim before wrapping her lips around him while slowly sliding down and up pausing only to lick him like an ice cream cone.

“It’s my turn,” she said as she straddled him and rubbed the head of his cock against her clit. They were both oozing with juices. She closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip as she manipulated him to her will.  Increasing the speed and pressure she slid him inside her and panted, “Fuck me! Fuck me hard!” To which he eagerly complied. Their orgasms exploded simultaneously as he held her hips and pumped her up and down.  She rolled to her side keeping him deep within.  He squeezed the cheeks of her ass pulling her against him.

“How was I?” Dane enquired.

“If you have to ask, you have a lot to learn. I don’t score lovers on a point system, nor by dick size. Let’s say you were almost as fun to ride as a Harley.”

“Don’t hold anything back just to spare my feelings. I’m a big boy, I can take criticism.” answered Dane. “I have to admit I’ve been going through a dry spell, but I’m open to suggestions, role playing, fantasies, bondage, anything you desire.”

“That’s promising. I wasn’t disappointed in your performance if that’s what you were asking. You’re not the best, but not the worst by any means. Average isn’t a bad thing. Knowing that you’re open to exploring your limits is encouraging. Have you experienced Tantric sex?”

“If that has to do with the Kama Sutra I have read it, or at least looked at the pictures. Most of the positions look to be beyond my acrobatic abilities, although martial arts has kept me quite flexible.”

Red continued, “Sting has bragged that he and his wife have had eight-hour lovemaking sessions using the ancient practices of Tantric sex. Are you interested or have I forever bruised your delicate ego?”

“Eight hours? Wow, I have new respect for the man and I thought he was most impressive for his singing.”

“Tantra is not something that can be learned by reading a book or watching a video. It requires becoming more in tune with your inner self. Translated, Kama Sutra means ‘treatise of pleasure’. By having sex the Kama Sutra way you can truly make your partner feel loved, and provide a sexual experience that would awaken the very essence of their soul.”

“That sounds fascinating. Lead on teacher, I’ll follow. First, let’s pack our belongings, deliver them to the pickup area, have breakfast and wait for the airport shuttle.”

We asked at the Sailport desk about breakfast. Unfortunately, they only served a brunch buffet on weekends. They recommended Datz Tampa on MacDill street about ten minutes away by cab.

The restaurant wasn’t much to look at from the outside, but inside it was colorful and cozy. I ordered the The Eggs Barbacoa. It was phenomenal. Red tried the Chicken and Waffles and said it was very good! For drinks I had a Bloody Mary while Red went for a Mimosa or two. An hour later we were on the plane for St Kitts.

They call me Red…

Dane Cross, he liked the sound of that, simple, direct, easy to spell, easy to remember, enigmatic. A life of deception can’t have too many complications or explanations. He was a man for hire, private investigation, bouncer, anything this side of legal. Trained as a black op in combat with a licence as a Private Investigator he was equipped for many rolls, most of them quick and dirty. Always the guy from out of town. He had no recorded past, not even fingerprints. He’d travelled the back streets and alleys in the worst districts of the world. What he’s seen, no one should see, no one should take part. The reality was that crime exists everywhere. The removal of low life crooks was his obsession.

Registered in a nondescript hotel he headed down the dimly lit back street in search of a bar. He saw flashing pink and blue neon and followed his instincts. The Playmate came into focus, a strip bar, how convenient. For a single male stranger, new in town, the sources of entertainment are limited. Movie theatres, restaurants are visited mostly by couples. A single person stands out. That he didn’t want.

She’s a Brick House by the Commodores was blaring from the downstairs club:

Ow, she’s a brick house
She’s mighty-mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out
She’s a brick house
That lady’s stacked and that’s a fact
Ain’t holding nothing back

Inside, past the bouncer, the ticket booth and the compulsory coat check were the sights and sounds of lust paid for by the minute, also the scent of cherry. He took a seat at a circular, formica topped table in a dimly lit back corner with a view of the entrance. The wooden chairs  were worn but not shabby. The carpet was worn also, paths of high traffic led to to the bar, washrooms and to a stairway that let to the private upstairs VIP rooms. He thought  to himself, All that’s required to become a VIP is to hand a stripper a wad of bills.

A scantily clad woman was immediately at his side. “I’m Amber,” she said in a breathy voice. “Drink?”

Again the scent of cherry. “Double shots of Jameson, neat.” It wasn’t that he particularly liked the taste of Irish whiskey, but it reminded him of his roots and The Troubles, also it slowed his drinking. He couldn’t afford to become drunk and conspicuous.

“Coming right up,” she said in a Barbie Doll voice. His drink came soon enough. “There you go,” she giggled.

He gulped it down and said, “Another.”

“You’re a man of few words. With your drink would you like a table dance, or I could take you upstairs to the V.I.P Room. We can be more intimate there.”

“Just the drink, thank you.” As she sashayed towards the bar for his drink he thought. What a lack of creativity.  With all the names in the world she chose — a fossilized tree resin, yellow in color. Why didn’t she just name herself Yellow.  A wave of relaxation spilled over his crusty mood. The liquid from his glass burned his throat in a comforting way. He remembered his father’s words, ‘If it don’t hurt, it ain’t no good. Don’ t go spendin’ money on fancy labels.’

Amber kept coming back, pressing her thigh against his, placing her hands on his shoulders and letting her breast touch the top of his head. He knew her situation — there was no money in selling drinks, only in table and lap dances.  He wasn’t in the mood for either so he walked to the bar.

He pulled up an end stool with his back to the dancers and his eye on the door to see who might come in. “Name your poison.” said the woman behind the bar. He couldn’t help but notice her small delicate hands, elegant fingers with fiery red  nail polish to match her luscious lips. He named his usual. As she walked away he noticed her waves of red hair cascading down the sparkling green fabric of her short dress. She had to stretch for the Jameson bottle. Her legs were long and had a graceful shape, muscles undulating as she moved. She had a feline sureness about her as she set down his drink, collected empty glasses and gave the bar a quick wipe. He tossed it back and absentmindedly looked at the rows of colored bottles.

“Another?” she asked.

“Yeah, hit me again,” he replied, gazing into her golden brown eyes. They had a quizzical, dangerous look about them.

As she placed the drink before him she said, “You’re not like the typical customer we get here.”

“Describe the typical customer?”

“Well,” she said, “you sat at the back, so you weren’t interested in a clear view of the stage. You turned down Amber for a table dance and a visit to the V.I.P Room. That’s not typical.”

“What? Can’t a guy just come to a bar for a drink?”

“Yes, but not usually to this bar. They call me Red. If you need anything just shout.” The honeyed tones of her voice had timbre and resonance even when she was speaking softly. She’s probably a damned fine singer.

Red, he thought, how original.

She came back shortly after and asked, “You’re not a cop are you?”

“And if I was, do you think I’d tell you?”

She lingered before she answered, “No, I suppose not, but we do occasionally have unpleasant incidents — fights, girls being assaulted. It would be comforting to know that we had one officer of the law to keep us safe.”

“I saw your bouncer at the door, I’m sure he can take care of himself and your staff. I also noticed the line of motorcycles out front and the full patches on vests and jackets. I didn’t recognize the name but, surely some of them would come to the aid of a damsel in distress.”

“Have you looked closely at their patches. The top rocker is Sons of Irony, the bottom is Middle Earth, the image is a prairie dog. My dad was a poet, he thought the name was as appropriate as any other. Anyway, bikers can be unpredictable and the bouncer can’t be everywhere or see everything.”

“Well, Red, as they call you, who works in a biker bar, you want to come to me for protection? I should be the one concerned about protection. I don’t like cops any more than you do. If a fight breaks out I’ll stay well away from it. If one of your girls is in trouble I’d have to think, what’s in it for me?”

“I can see that you’re a real gentleman.”

“I know that these places are euphemistically called gentlemen’s clubs, but I don’t see a gentleman in sight, including me. As for ladies, I’ll reserve judgement.”

With that she left me alone to enjoy my drink. I pulled out a pocket notebook and jotted a few sentences. Sometimes the right amount of alcohol and the right atmosphere brings out the poet or novelist in me.

“What are you writing? Anything about me?”

“I’m writing reflections, observations, impressions, word pictures. Maybe I’ll write about you. It relaxes me.”

“You a professional writer? Do you write for newspapers? Have you published any books, anything I may have come across?”

“You may have read some things that I’ve written, but then I don’t know your tastes in reading.”

“My tastes may surprise you, Rumi, Aristophanes, Baudelaire, Whitman, Gertrude Stein, Mary Oliver, Charles Bukowski, William Wantling…”

“You have eclectic tastes. I’m genuinely impressed and I don’t impress easily. I don’t recognize the last name you mentioned.”

“William Wantling? He was an American poet, novelist, ex-marine, Vietnam vet, forger, drug addict and resident at San Quentin State Prison. After being released he attended university and graduated with a BA and an MA.  He became college professor. He also hung out with Charles Bukowski. He’s considered one of the last beat poets. A line I remember from one of his poems:

Mostly I want you to see we are all in San Quentin.

(“But see how cunningly the trap is baited”)

He gave that line some thought and replied, “He sounds like an interesting guy. I’d love to read his work.”

“You may not find much. I certainly haven’t. He was never a New York Times best seller, but he wrote reality, his reality, raw, violent, gritty, the life you’d find in prison.”

“That’s more what interests me. Cut the bullshit, tell it like it is, not just to glorify rich people like you see on tv, but for the families scraping to make a living, the people working for minimum wage or less with no pension to look forward to, the waitresses, janitors…”

“So is there a market for the kind of books you write?”

“People buy my books, but I’ll never be a best seller. In some ways it’s like this place. You don’t make money off the drinks, customers like me. You make money from sex: the sight of it, the touch, smell and whatever else goes on upstairs. The popularity of my books sometimes depends on the level of sex, violence — things I know about — just enough to get my point across.”

“What is your point?”

“My point is the human condition. I try to understand people, why they fall in love, why they hurt each other, why they kill each other. It’s a mystery, like you for instance. Why is a woman who reads Baudelaire and Aristophanes, serving drinks in a biker strip bar?”

“That would be a long story if I chose to tell it. I don’t just serve drinks. I own this place, inherited it from my father who was a biker. Even when I was under age he would bring me here off hours if he needed to work on the books. I’d keep myself entertained with the pinball machines, pool table and sometimes Solitaire…”

“I take it that your mother wasn’t around?”

“You don’t pull punches do you. She died when I was five. I don’t remember much about her. I was raised by my grandparents and my dad. He played a big part in my growing up, so did a lot of the other bikers in here. He was nuts about vintage Harleys. He loved the look of them, the feel and sound when he rode them. He’d go to swap meets, get to know other bikers, buy what looked like a wreck, take it all apart, then rebuild it. Soon other bikers came to him to repair their bikes or buy ones he’d restored. He’d tell me about panheads, knuckleheads, shovelheads, softails, hardtails. They formed a club. I was their mascot. They said I brought them luck. When I was older, Dad would pay me to sweep out the place, wipe tables, wash glasses and ashtrays, clean washrooms. When I was old enough I started serving behind the bar. What about you?”

“Nothing special. I grew up on a small farm. I like animals more than people. I never had much of a social life. Dad was getting weaker year by year, so I took on more of the farm work. Eventually, he passed on, Mom shortly after. I moved around a lot. Never in one place long enough to make any real friends. I was always the new kid, the guy from out of town. Attended college on a football scholarship. I have the aching joints to prove it. I did my military service after college. I liked the military, but didn’t like taking orders, so now I’m what you would call a security contractor.”

As a security contractor what do you actually work at?”

“I’m open to whatever a client wants done, as long as they can meet my price. I don’t come cheap.”

“You’re a mercenary!”

“That’s not a term I use to describe myself. Call me a Private Military Contractor. Mercenaries work for everybody, they’ll go for the highest bidder on either side. As a PMC I like to think that I’m working on the right side of the fence most of the time. The main difference is that a PMC’s role is to protect and escape, rather than engage and attack.”

“If I had a problem and met your price could I hire you?”

“I’d need details. Maybe we could work something out.”

She called out, “Amber, take the bar. I’m going to the back.”

In the back room were open cases of liquor, a large commercial dishwasher, laundry facilities, a door marked Dressing Room, a staff area for coffee and a glass enclosed office. Red directed me to a client chair in front of her desk. She started by saying, “It’s discouraging the way things have changed. In the early 90’s a strip club in Montreal started offering lap dances. I visited the club and the owner showed me a closed circuit tv monitor of what was happening in the private rooms. He said they needed the cameras for security in case a dancer was assaulted, also they wanted to make sure the girls didn’t go too far. Prostitution wasn’t allowed.

“I discussed the changes with my dancers and the opinions varied. I didn’t want to force anyone out of their comfort zone. A lot of girls left the business at that time. I didn’t blame them. Some saw it as a way of earning extra money. I decided to leave it up to them to decide whether or not they wanted to offer lap dances, but it’s the dancer who sets the limits. I run a clean club which means no prostitution or drugs. We no longer hire feature dancers. It used to be that we’d book some of the best in the world, real international cabaret stars There were regular tour circuits. Now the girls serve drinks then take turns on the stage. I don’t like what’s happening. I see it as demeaning.

“I worked a deal with a local jiu-jitsu and kickboxing club. The girls get a free membership to learn self defence.  The membership of the club has seen a big boost in enrolment. The guys love seeing my girls training with them in singlets and short shorts.

“These girls, women, are like sisters to me, but more often I have to act like a mother. I hear all their problems. I have a calendar where I mark down when they’re having their period, so I know if they’re going to be grumpy or if they might phone in sick. If they thought they may be pregnant, because they were late, I could check the calendar and see if they’d missed the date or just forgot.

“People always ask me if I thought a lot of dancers had been abused as children. I always answer no to that question. Then follow it with, ‘not a lot of them, all of them.’ And I still believe that to this day. A woman can’t show her body to a man for money unless she’s lost something that once made her body special to her.

“When a girl is fifteen and has to leave home to get away from an abusive situation there aren’t a whole of of opportunities out there for her. It’s pretty much stripping and hooking. The government makes it difficult for underage girls to strip, with their licence requirements and all that. More of them are ending up as prostitutes instead…

“The club has a problem. A larger organization wants to take over…”

“If the larger organization is a one percenter motorcycle club, you’ve got a big problem. I’d suggest you do what they say, take your losses and leave.”

“I agree, I don’t have a choice, but I don’t want to give this place away. These are my friends, this place is their livelihood, this is my home. I need a negotiator. It’s not like I can go to our local real estate agent. Do you have any backing?”

“Yes, I can bring in a private militia, as many men and guns as needed, if you want to start a war you can never finish.”

“I don’t want any violence. I want a fair price and protection for my staff during the transition. I want a show of force not a war. A friend of mine who owned club similar to this had a very unfortunate experience. He was contacted by a group of supposed buyers. He made an appointment to meet them early in the morning before the club was open. Four very large men were waiting for him at the entrance. He showed them the club. They offered him a lot of money, more than the club was worth. They said they’d drive him to their lawyer’s office. While in the car they threatened him with death if he tried anything. The guys stood around while the papers were signed. They pushed him back in the car. Before they dropped him back at the club one of the thugs grabbed the owner’s face in a large hand and squeezed firmly. He said, and I can still remember the words he used, ‘Welcome to the real world, you ain’t gettin’ nothin’.’

“Okay, work out your selling price, talk to other owners. My senior operatives are on call for immediate response. A local company can provide me with guards in a matter of hours. It’s the same situation with canine patrols and handlers. Those out of town will need to make travel arrangements. Set a date to meet the purchasers. Make sure the meeting takes place here. Tell them to come unarmed. Do you have metal detectors. If not get some. Also, have closed circuit tv covering all areas of the club inside and out. We don’t want surprises. We’ll also need all areas bugged for sound. I’ll have some of my people bring in the equipment and install it. You can reach me at the hotel down the street. Do we have a deal?”

“I don’t know your price yet.”

“We’ll work it into the price of the sale. Let me get some figures and background on who we’re dealing with. Don’t discuss my involvement with anyone. I don’t want to be a target before it’s absolutely necessary. I’ll contact my crew.”

“Okay, I guess you’ve relieved some of my stress. Don’t let me down.”

“Cheers, Red.”

Two days later:

“Okay, Red, I have details of the audio and visual security. Everything seems to be in place and has been checked for reception.  Arrange a meeting with the prospective buyers as soon as possible.  Have your bouncer check them for weapons.  Take them back to the staff coffee area. My men and I will be out of sight in the dressing room.

Three bikers entered, one wearing a Vice President’s patch. After looking around the room they agreed to be searched electronically for weapons. They were young, muscular and huge.  Four men with grey hair and long beards wearing Sons of Irony patches were quietly playing cards at a nearby table.  The new arrivals  wandered over to talk, ‘You guys look as old as the bikes parked out front. Are you against buying American or can’t you afford Harleys.”

One of the grey beards stood up and said, “I ride a ’41 flathead BMW R71, the one that Harley copied after World War Two since theirs wasn’t good enough for the American Army. Where do you think Harley got their engine  and transmission?”

Another of the older bikers said, “My ’73 Triumph Hurricane X75 is a classic.  This model set numerous speed and distance records at Daytona and Bonneville. I’ll agree that their market was taken over by rice rockets, but It still gets me where I want to go.  Harleys’ are overrated, overpriced and too noisy.”

The old man got up from the table and confronted the VP, “It’s not polite to disrespect your elders. I think an apology is in order.”

“You old coot, I’ll show you disrespect.” With that he threw a right fist at the other’s jaw. The older man dodged and blocked the punch with his left wrist. His right hand came around the waist of his opponent finishing with a Hip Throw and standing Armbar. He said, “I can break this wrist, or let you walk away after I hear your apology.” The biker’s face was contorted in pain as his wrist was bent near to breaking. The other two bikers were ready to step in when they heard. “You may want to consider the two guns under the table about to blast away your manhood.”

The VP forced out the words. “I apologize. Let me up.”

The older man said, “You telegraphed your punch. You made it too easy.”

“What do you mean I telegraphed my punch?”

“I understand, in this electronic age telegraph is out of date. What I meant was, before you threw your punch you dipped your right shoulder. I knew exactly what you were going to do and counteracted appropriately. Now, do you want to try that again?”

The big man stood up. This time he tried a left hook. The older man defended with his hand to his right ear then attacked with his elbow, downing the biker again. “There, you did it again, you dropped your left.  If I hadn’t hit you with my elbow I could have chopped your neck, wrapped my arm around yours, hit you with my right then taken you down with my right leg behind yours. Do you want to try that again?”

“Some other time, old man. I got business to conduct.”

“It’ll make more sense if I demonstrate. Are you sure you don’t want to give it a try. You could learn something.”

“Later. old man.”

The bouncer shouted, “Red, your guests have arrived.” Red walked up as the man was rising from his knees.  She said, “Hey big boy, I appreciate respect, but I wasn’t expecting you to kneel. I see you’ve met Sensei Digger, my jiu-jitsu instructor. Would you mind following me to the back.”

They sat at the staff table, “I have some papers drawn up. you may want to have them checked by your lawyer. It’s being offered on the open market: twenty-five thousand square feet including commercial kitchen, refrigeration, fixtures valued at four hundred seventy-five thousand and  stock of twenty-five hundred. Included is the liquor consumption licence with an estimated value of $175,000, and a municipal certificate of occupancy for adult entertainment. Sales revenue is four hundred thousand with cash flow of eighty thousand.  Total asking price is nine hundred and ninety-five thousand. Any questions?”

“Look Bitch, this isn’t the way we do business. We’ll tell you what we’ll pay and you’ll accept it, or else.”

Dane and twenty men wearing street clothes and balaclavas entered from the Dressing Room. They were armed with AR-15 type rifles with a bump or slide fire modification. Handguns were strapped to their thighs. Each had a snarling dog at his side.

Dane said, “You’re not calling the shots here, I am   You’ll play by my rules.”

The biker said, “Hey, dude, that’s some heavy fuckin’ duty security you got there. Is that for our sake? Are those guns loaded or just for show?”

Dane said, “We don’t want to scare the patrons and staff or have someone phone the police. To keep the noise down, Number Two, show the man what you can do.” With lightning speed he pulled a knife from his sleeve and threw it across the room sticking it inches above the lead biker’s head. It was still quivering. “To answer your question, yes the guns are loaded if needed and the dogs do bite.

“These soldiers are used to fighting in the jungles and rainforests where the breaking of a twig can mean instant death. They’ve learned to fight like ghosts. Nobody sees them coming until it’s too late. The fact that they’re still alive attests to how good they are. Also, they’re international. There’s nowhere you can hide that you can’t be found.

“You may take these real estate papers to your President. After your church meeting phone me with your decision. I can be contacted on this cell phone.” He placed it on the table. There will be no negotiations. If you don’t want a bidding war, or if you’re fussy about your future neighbors we’ll need an answer as soon as possible. Your clubhouse is now surrounded by soldiers with rocket launchers, so don’t consider bringing reinforcements or any kind of retaliation. Your telecommunication and internet devices are being monitored by encryption specialists. We also have an audio and video of your skirmish at the front door where you were humiliated twice by an old man. That could go viral before the night is over, if we so choose. I’m sure that your home chapter and your enemies would find it very entertaining. You may leave now to make your decision. Call me.”

Dane and Red showed the bikers to the exit.  The VP said, “I haven’t finished with you, Red.”

She confronted him and asked in a sweet as honey voice, “I don’t understand, whatever do you mean?”

The biker said with a smirk on his face, “I mean we have some unfinished business involving your legs draped over my shoulders. Your pussy could use a taste of my tongue.”

The smile still on her face she said, “You’re not man enough for my taste.” Her stilettoed foot came up with a right snap kick to his chin followed by a left roundhouse to the side of his head. He fell hard on his back with his legs spread.  She placed her shoe on his crotch and pressed, “You owe me an apology, or I’ll crush what little balls you have.” The remaining two bikers were about to come to his aid when they looked at  the Sons of Irony at the card table, guns drawn, smiles on their bearded faces. “I apologise.”

Red said to Dane, “I’m glad that’s over. These soldiers must cost a fortune and you mentioned encryption specialists. I don’t know how I can pay for all this.”

“I’ll take ten per cent of the selling price. If costs run over that I’ll cover them.”

“That’s very generous.”

“Well, I don’t expect to need all of them for the full term. As long as our three friends are convinced we have them they’ve served their purpose. They’ll convince the other members of the gang that we’re not to be messed with.

“They’re are on call twenty-four hours a day. We also have access to any other military equipment we may need. If we need a tank to crash through their club house we can do it. Now, we wait for their phone call. If this fails we can probably find legitimate buyers. It’s a fair price and good value.”

Red said with a smile on her face, “This calls for a drink. Will you have your usual?”

“Yes please, ma’am.”

“Don’t call me ma’am. That makes me sound like a grandmother.”

As they entered the bar area, Amber was on stage suspended from the dance pole by her legs. Her body arched back and her long dark hair touched the floor. She slid down to a handstand, then supporting her weight on her hands she came down to a headstand, returned to a handstand. She slowly pulled herself up to her former position, hung on to the pole with her hands and spiraled to the floor.

Dane watched with appreciation. “She’s really very good.”

“She’s a trained gymnast and ballerina. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many jobs that can make use of her skill set and grace. What you saw was a table top, going into a lean back, leading into a bridged handstand, back up to a plank stand, ending in a spinning straddle to the floor. She makes it look easy, but it takes an expert to avoid pole burn.”

“So, what’s in her future after you close here?”

“Probably another strip bar in another town. She’ll do alright as long as she stays clean. Drugs take a lot of dancers. It’s not a problem for her now, but so many girls fall into that lifestyle, especially when their age begins to show and they aren’t so pretty or so popular.”

“Do you have someplace where I can crash for the night? I don’t want to be out walking the streets alone. There could be a sniper waiting for me.”

“Are we really in a lot of danger?”

“That all depends on the bikers and the skill of my soldiers. They’ve been issued infrared glasses for night vision. I’ll post snipers on the roof in four hour shifts. Your windows will be manned. Roving scouts will be patrolling the outlying area and I’ll have snipers in camouflaged blinds, similar to hunting blinds but underground. They’ll be completely invisible even in broad daylight.

Two days later Dane’s phone rang. The voice on the other end said, “Okay, we’re in. Where do we exchange the money and the sales papers?”

Dane answered, “We’ll take two thirds of the purchase price now. Bundles of large bills will fit in the saddlebags of a single bike. We’ll sign the papers, and count the money in the middle of the parking lot.  In two weeks, after the premises have been vacated, we’ll accept the balance of payment and turn over the keys. After that it’s all yours.”

The voice answered, “Okay,” then the line went dead.

“Okay,” said Dane to Red, “We’ve got the ball rolling. With luck,  in two weeks you’ll have the money in your hand and can start a new life.”

“I have a feeling it’s not going to be that easy. We’re not dealing with Mr. and Mrs. suburban couple. These guys are used to taking what they want, on their own terms.”

Dane said, “Then let them bring it on. We’re ready.”

A phone call from the lookout advised, “A group of thirty is suiting up and have mounted their bikes. What should we do?”

“If they turn left towards the strip club launch a mortar shell ahead of them to blow up the road. We’ll see what happens then.”

“They’ve turned right. It may be that they’re planning to circle around and come at you from the other side.”

“We’re ready for them. Hold your location.”

Spotters with telescopes saw small groups advancing from all directions. Dane ordered his men on the roof to fire several rounds of rubber bullets to let the bikers know they’ve been detected. “What’s the reaction?” he asked.

“They’re moving back, but they’re not leaving,” said a spokesman for the shooters.

“Launch a couple of mortars. Try not to kill anybody, but let them know we’re using live ammo. Can you see what kind of weapons they’re using?”

“I see the expected axe handles, chains, handguns, shotguns also  assault rifles. I see some Remington Bushmasters, GPCs, Colt CQBRs, CM901s and a Robinson XCR, all American dating from 2004 to 2010. I don’t see any grenade, mortar or rocket launchers.”

“What’s happening now?”

“They’re retreating slowly. I think it’s a standoff.”

“Call out to our roving men and the ones in the blinds. See if they can single out stragglers and hit them with tranquilizer darts. Work from the back of the group to the front. It would be great if we could immobilize their leader.”

“We’ve hit a couple and the leader is walking directly towards one of the blinds. I don’t know if our man has been spotted or not. I don’t think so. I can see a slight movement in the leaves, the tip of a dart gun has emerged. The President is down. Let’s see what happens now.”

“I think a phone call to the VP would be in order.”

“I see him picking up his phone. He looks pissed.”

“Your President is down, so are a half dozen of your men. Do exactly as I say or the next round of bullets will be live and we’ll be shooting to kill. Order your men to drop their weapons immediately or your leader dies first, then you. Raise your arms. You’re surrounded.”

“Fuck you!” yelled the VP as he ran toward the building firing his submachine gun.

Dane said, “He doesn’t have a target, the only damage he’s doing is to the brick walls.  Shoot a tear gas cartridge in his path. That should slow him down. If he gets within thirty-five feet we can use a taser to stop him. It would be preferable if we can avoid killing anyone, on the other hand, we are under attack.”

“The tear gas seems to have worked. He’s holding his eyes and coughing. Bring the soldiers out of their blinds. They can approach from the rear. Keep using the tranquilizer darts. Fire more tear gas cartridges if anyone approaches. Bring out the dogs. What is the body count now?”

“There are about six still standing. They’ve dropped their weapons and have their hands above their heads.

“Round them up, use cuffs, herd them into the back room. Lock them in the beer cooler, with the exception of the President. He’ll be groggy, but if he wants this place he should be able to sign his name.”

The leader sat on a chair in the middle of the room, his hands cuffed behind his back. Red asked, “So what’s it going to be. Do you meet our price or do we offer it to another biker club?

“Uncuff my hands. I’ll sign. You’ll have the money tomorrow.”

Red said, “Send a lone biker to our parking lot. We’ll do a count and if we’re satisfied he’ll ride away unharmed.”

The President stood “I assume you’ll release my men now.”

“Yes,” said Red, “all but your VP. He can cool off here until the payment is settled.”

The bikers trooped out of the beer cooler, with the exception of the VP who was on his back with the boot of a soldier across his throat and a snarling dog straining against its leash. They left by the front door and walked the empty street towards their clubhouse.

Next day:

The financial transaction took place at noon in the parking lot. The VP was released, arrangement for the handover of keys  was arranged for later that night and the bikers rode away.

“Thank you,” said Red to Dane, “I really couldn’t have done it without you.”

“You handle yourself well. If you don’t have any other offers I’m in need of a partner with your qualifications.”

“That sounds interesting. I could give it a try. Shall we discuss it over a drink.”

They walked back into the bar, sat at a corner table as Amber poured their usual drinks. “So Dane Cross,” said Red, “what is this job you’re offering me?”

“Don’t get too used to the name Dane Cross, it’s an alias. In my line of work I don’t like to be tied down to any particular identity or background. I like to stay flexible and creative. I’m usually on the move, but I stay in luxury. We’d be equal partners, share in the decisions and the profits.

“You mentioned spending a lot of your childhood here. I grew up in pool halls as well. When my brother who was fifteen years older, was assigned to babysit me. He’d take me to a pool hall, prop me in a chair and keep me contented with comic books, chips and soft drinks. I was in heaven. He’d be hustling the tables. Things sometimes got ugly if there was a sore loser, but Jack was a fighter, so he could take care of himself.

They talked into the evening. Amber brought sandwiches from the kitchen. After the last of the patrons and staff left and locked the doors they continued their conversation. An hour later the sound of a motorcycle approached and stopped out front. Dane got out of his chair, stood behind the pool table, switched off the overhead light and picked up two balls. There was the sound of feet stomping down the concrete stairs and the crashing of the door as it was kicked in. A spray of bullets from a machine gun broke lights, broke chairs, mirrors followed by the biker. When the dust had cleared he saw Red sitting at a table. She said, “You could have rung the doorbell, but it’s your place now, do what you like to the furniture and fixtures.”

“It was you I came to see, Red. I said we weren’t finished yet.”

“Yes, I remember now, it involved my legs draped over your shoulders. Do I have that part right?  Then you indicated that my pussy could use a taste of your tongue. Are you up for that big boy? or was it all talk?”

Dane settled one of the balls into his right hand  and pitched it at the biker hitting him between the eyes. The second followed in quick succession. He next picked up a pool cue and smashed the leaded handle on the other’s unprotected neck. The biker staggered but remained on his feet. Dane grabbed  a fist full of his  long hair with his left hand, jerked the biker’s head down as his left knee slammed into his chin.  From his loose right  pocket Dane drew his go to weapon of choice in tight quarters, his spring assisted knuckle or trench knife — brass knuckles combined with a double edged switchblade. While still holding him by the hair he drove the knuckles into his the side of his opponent’s head, then reached under and jabbed the two sided blade into his neck, pulled back and slit his throat from ear to ear.

Red said, “I guess now would be a good time to leave by the rear door. My car’s out back.”

(To be continued…)

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Wish I didn’t know…


 

“Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” is a lyric from Against the Wind written by Bob Seger. This line has haunted me since I first heard it in 1980. I have made many choices that I later regretted. I’ve been offered opportunities that, with more courage or persistance I would have explored. In many past relationships I’ve felt betrayed. For years I avoided becoming emotionally attached to anyone.

What life choices have you regretted? What would you have done differently if given the opportunity? Would you have avoided that toxic relationship that led to abuse? I expect that many people looking back on their lives question, “What if…?

We make decisions based on the information we have at the present time. That information, like the stock market, can change in a minute. We also make decisions based on who we were at a certain time. Were we emotionally mature, were we acting on impulse, were we trying to impress someone? Regardless, we are victims of the choices we made and their consequences. 

There is still hope for our future. We can change. Perhaps, we need to forgive ourselves or someone else. We are not tied to, or defined by our past. Each new day is an opportunity to begin building a new me, a new you. It may take baby steps at first and we may need guidance from a professional but change is within our grasp. We may feel that we’re “still runnin against the wind”, but the exertion is worth our effort. 

Against the Wind – Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band  https://buff.ly/2Ezp6Bd

Professional Reader

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Voodoo Queen of New Orleans

latest

 

She was long and lovely from ‘way down south,
she had blood on her hands, blood on her mouth.
She’d got voodoo spells and incantations.
She lived on one of those big plantations.
Had she done something bad? Well, I don’t know.
She went by the name of Marie Laveau.

She had golden skin and curly black hair,
down near the bayou you could find her there,
with her big old snake wrapped ’round and ’round,
it was party time when the sun went down.
Cauldron would bubble and naked they’d dance,
potions concocted, ’round the fire she’d prance.

She had a mojo hand, a black cat bone —
wouldn’t want her to catch you all alone.
There were stories told of the men she’d hexed;
husband Jacques unaware that he’d be next,
he just disappeared, he never returned —
just ashes left and the incense she burned.

Stroll though the graveyard down near Bayou Street
upon St. John’s Eve when the spirits meet.
There on her tomb is perched a big black crow
masking the spirit of Marie Laveau.
She leads the rites and the ritual scene,
forever known as the the Voodoo Queen.

 

marie

Photo by Samantha Corfield
Tomb of Marie Laveau
St. Louis Cemetery #1
New Orleans

 

Marie Laveau lived from 1794 to 1881 on North Rampart Street, New Orleans. When requested, she used the Voodoo religion’s magical powers to control one’s enemies, lovers and acquaintances.

The type of music I have in mind for this has twanging guitars and a heavy drum beat reminiscent of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Down on the Bayou” or the Colin James song “Voodoo Thing”

 

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Strange Fruit

Image result for billie holiday strange fruit images

Written for the Freedom Writers Contest, March, 2010, using the prompt ‘INSPIRATION’.Definition of Inspiration: “An agency, such as a person or work of art, that moves the intellect or emotions or prompts action or invention.” (Answers.com)

.

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

“Strange Fruit” has been called the original protest song. It is deceptively simple and direct. The song depicts lynching in all of its brutality. The three short verses are all the more powerful for their understated and ironic language. The juxtaposition of the pastoral landscape with “The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth”, the smell of magnolias with that of burning flesh, the blossoms more typically associated with the Southern climate with the “strange fruit” produced by racial oppression — good ol’ boys by day; white robes, hoods and burning crosses by night.

The lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith In 1937 was photographed and appeared on a postcard that was seen by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high-school teacher from the Bronx. This horrendous event took place in Marion, Indiana, August 7, 1930. Meerapol was haunted for days by Lawrence H. Beitler’s photograph of the incident, which sold by the thousands for fifty cents apiece. Strange Fruit was inspired by this horrific image and was published under the pseudonym, Lewis Allan.

Billie Holiday was performing at the club, Café Society, in New York City. After hearing her sing, Meeropol sent her “Strange Fruit”. Holiday had mixed feelings about performing the song. She presented it to her friend Milt Gabler whose Commodore label produced alternative jazz. She sang the song a cappella, and it moved Gabler so much that he wept. In 1939, Gabler agreed to record and distribute the song.

Barney Josephson, owner of Café Society, recognized the impact of the song and insisted that Holiday close all her shows with it. Just as the song was about to begin, waiters would stop serving, the lights in the club would be turned off, and a single pin spotlight would illuminate Holiday on stage. During the musical introduction, Holiday would stand with her eyes closed, as if she were evoking a prayer.

Billie’s grandfather was one of 17 children of a black Virginia slave and a white Irish plantation owner. Her father, Clarence Holiday, while touring the Southwest as a guitar player with the Don Redman big band caught a heavy cold on March 1st, 1937. He had served in France during the last year of WWI and had his lungs severely damaged by mustard gas, making him susceptible to any respiratory ailment. He delayed seeking medical attention, knowing the prevailing racial attitudes in Texas, at the time. He died of pneumonia in the local Veterans’ Hospital. He was 37.

Holiday reflected, “I have to keep singing it, not only because people ask for it but because twenty years after Pop died the things that killed him are still happening in the South.”2

Lynching ideology was directly connected with denial of political and social equality. Benjamin Tillman, 84th Governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894 and later a United States Senator from 1895 to 1918 stated forthrightly:

We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern white men, and we never will. We have never believed him to be the equal of the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him.

Mobs lynched 4,743 persons in the United States, between 1882 and 1968, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. Over eighty-eight percent were African-Americans. Fewer than 1 percent of those arrested for lynching were ever convicted.

Abel Meerapol was all too familiar with the news reports describing the Holocaust that began in 1933 when Hitler came to power in Germany. It is estimated that 11 million people were killed during the Holocaust. Six million of these were Jews. In addition to Jews, the Nazis targeted Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the disabled for persecution. The American Holocaust differed only in numbers and scope.

“Strange Fruit” undoubtedly contributed to the 1964 Civil Rights Act declaring discrimination based on race illegal. President Obama reinforced this position when he signed major civil rights legislation in October, 2009 entitled the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998, and James Byrd Jr., an African-American man dragged to death in Texas the same year.

“Strange Fruit” was counted among one of the “ten songs that actually changed the world” by Q, a British music publication, but “Most Provocative” or “Most Unsettling” might more accurately reflect the song’s artistic impact and true social standing. “Strange Fruit” is “a work of art, that has moved the intellect, emotions and has prompted action”. It, therefore, exemplifies Inspiration.

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Discrimination

11 February 2019

The world as I know it is in turmoil. I was probably naive in thinking that the lyrics of All You Need is Love by Lennon and McCartney would eventually come true:

“There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved

Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy
All you need is love”

I was a hippy in the midst of Beatlemania, Woodstock and protests of the Kent State Massacre of 4 May 1970. I attended sit-ins, rallies and in my university classes I heard lectures by supporters of the Weather Underground Organization, known as the Weathermen, the Black Panthers and other groups who asked us,”Why are you just sitting here. Why aren’t you protesting or throwing a bomb?”

I didn’t throw a bomb. I mellowed out on Moroccan Gold, hash oil laced with opium and watched music from the stereo speakers assaulting my head in blinding waves. I became paranoid and was unable to walk down the stairs, I had to slide down one step at a time. I witnessed a beating on the sidewalk. A man had been pulled halfway out of the driver’s seat of his car and was being punched repeatedly to the head. A gang of youths surrounded the fight scene. One said, ‘You’re in a very dark neighbourhood.’ I was catatonic, in a state of mental stupor. My wife said, ‘He’s sick. Happy New Year.’ Seeing that I was not a threat, they let us pass and said, ‘Happy New Year.’ When we arrived at the Toronto subway I was afraid that I would be pushed in front of a speeding train.

I’m writing from the viewpoint of a Canadian. If you’ve done the math you will conclude that I am old. I don’t like to be labeled as old, nor do I like to be compartmentalized as a white, male, hetrosexual. I recognize that I experience ‘white male privilege’. I like to think that my ideas and beliefs extend beyond these limitations. I think the same of others. We are what we say and do, not how we look, our gender or gender preference.

In the 1970’s a Youth Revolution seemed inevitable. We didn’t trust anyone over the age of thirty. In The Greening of America by Charles A. Reich, required reading in my Humanities class taught:

“how a once-free America had become a Corporate State that made no one happy. And then it suggested a remedy.”

The way out? It wasn’t political change — for Reich, politics came last. The first and most important thing: Consciousness. As he saw it, America had outgrown “Consciousness I,” which had helped form a nation of free individuals. It had outgrown “Consciousness II,” which was corporate and heartless. Now it was time for “Consciousness III,” in which people would turn away from the quest for traditional success and forge a new, personal path to satisfaction.

In short: Change the way you think, help others do the same, and soon the system has to change.”

We saw and supported the black civil rights movement. Richard Nixon promised an honorable end to the Vietnam War. In January 1973, the Nixon administration negotiated a peace agreement with North Vietnamese leaders. Eighteen months later, facing certain impeachment by the Senate due to the Watergate scandal, Nixon became the first American President to ever resign on August 8, 1974. The Vietnam War ended on April 30th 1975 under the administration of President Gerald Ford.

With the ending of the Vietnam war I was under the impression that the world was becoming more civilized. I knew returning vets, one had been a driver for Jonathan Winters during his USO tour. I knew members of the Black Panthers and the Klan. While on a heavy equipment course in Charlotte, North Carolina I was drinking beer with a group in a local tavern. The conversation turned to the treatment of blacks in the Carolinas. Someone from another table said, ‘We treat blacks much better here than they do in Mississippi.’ Robert, a Klan member sitting next to me stood up and said to the speaker, ‘How would you like to see a cross burning in your front yard.’ Not another word was spoken. Half the tavern stood up and walked out.

I asked Robert about the Klan. He said that he had nothing against blacks. His uncle was Imperial Wizard of United Klans of America (UKA), a Ku Klux Klan group, so he grew up as a Klan member, not by choice, but as family. He wasn’t allowed to leave the Klan or the state without written permission. Robert was a likable, good looking fellow about twenty some years old from Asheville, Tennessee. He likened being a member of the Klan to being a member of the Boy Scouts. They wore uniforms, had meetings in the woods, but instead of campfires they burned churches.’ What did I know, a prairie boy from Saskatchewan barely of drinking age?

Speaking to a friend, an acknowledged Black Panther, I invited him to join me for a beer somewhere. Since I didn’t have a car I gave him the choice of locations. He said, ‘Thanks for the offer. I’d like to but the places I can go wouldn’t allow you in the door. The places you can go wouldn’t allow me.’

This was completely new territory for me. I was sitting in the front seat of a car driving around the back streets of Charlotte looking for a club. I heard a loud bang from the back seat. I turned around and saw a friend from Colorado pointing a handgun out the window towards a black man standing on the corner. He said, “Don’t worry. I wasn’t trying to shoot him. I just wanted to see him jump. Later he had a quick draw contest with a vet from Tennessee. Luckily nobody was injured.

“Dec 28, 2018 – The Senate passed a bill for the first time in its history that, if enacted, would make lynching a federal crime. More than 4,700 people were lynched in the U.S. from 1882 to 1968, according to one estimate, and over 70 percent of the victims were black.”

Twenty-seven countries around the world allow same sex marriage yet, as of December 2018, “in the United states marriage certificates are not issued to same-sex couples by eight counties in Alabama and one county in Texas. Those wishing to marry in these counties must travel to another county to obtain a license validly performed in other jurisdictions.” Where is Democracy if the majority is circumvented by an ignorant minority.

I am a feminist if that means that I support strong women in power who intend to unite the country and rescue it from the clutches of the pay for pray evangelists who hide behind their racism, bigotry, misogyny and homophobia. These evangelicals are the money changers who Jesus threw out of the temple:

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

The women’s liberation movement “included campaigns in support of peace and disarmament, equality in education and employment, birth control and an end to violence against women.”  When Congress proposed the amendment in 1972, the resolution said it would become effective if approved by three-quarters of state legislatures. This seemed reasonable and long overdue. “At the time, ratification seemed a foregone conclusion; both parties had supported the ERA for nearly 20 years. But the nascent religious right mobilized to block it. Ratification stalled at 35 states—three short of the three-fourths majority required…  On January 15, 2019, the Virginia Senate voted to approve the ERA. The resolution now goes back to the House that rejected it 40 years ago.”

In December of 2010 my lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward the building where I work, in one of the city’s grey, concrete, office tower canyons. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time. I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against a building wall. A snow-covered Buddha, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. She said ‘Good morning sir.’ I replied with “Good morning.’ I was intrigued by her and wondered why she wasn’t staying at a homeless shelter and eating at one of the churches that offer free meals. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

The next morning when I saw her I asked, ‘Would you like a coffee and perhaps a breakfast sandwich?’ She replied, ‘A breakfast sandwich sounds good. I don’t drink coffee but I’d like a tea with three sugars. When I returned with her meal in a bag she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed. I asked if I might sit with her. She replied, ‘Certainly.’ I asked how long she had been on the streets. She hesitated for a moment then said, ‘I arrived from Toronto in ’97, so that would make it 13 years. I sleep behind the dumpster in back of Starbucks.’ Thus began a beautiful friendship.

Two years later I spoke to Joy about the possibility of writing a story about her and her friends. Several days later I saw a group people standing near the park. Some I recognized as being Joy’s friends, so I started talking to the ones I knew. Joy arrived and said to the group, ‘This is my friend, Dennis. If anything bad happens to him you’ll have me to answer to. He’s writing a book and would like to talk to some of you.’ I said, ‘My intention is to write a book from the point of view of homeless people.’ I asked them, ‘What would you guys like the general public to know about your situation? I won’t use your real names.’

A large man approached me. He said, ‘Get your notepad and pen out. I’ll talk to you.’ Darren [a college graduate and Gulf war veteran]. ‘First of all we aren’t you guys, we’re not a group, we’re individuals. We come from different places, different backgrounds, in some cases different tribes. Some of us don’t even like each other, but we congregate here to have a beer, smoke a joint, to be with others who don’t judge or verbally abuse us. We accept everyone.

‘As for me, I’m from New Brunswick. My ancestry is Mi’kmaq. My family lived in a small town where the priest made all the decisions. My mother and father were both alcoholic. I have a brother and a sister. It was the priest’s decision to send us to foster homes. I was sent to Boston, I don’t know where my brother and sister are located.’

When I’m with the homeless I don’t judge. I ask a minimum of questions, only enough to keep the conversation moving. I don’t interrogate or ask about their past. Mostly, I listen and try to understand. I am often asked why I am there. Although the reasons are deeper, I usually answer by saying, ‘The conversations here are more interesting than where I work.’ I visit them before work, and at noon hours, so I always have an excuse to leave.

What I have learned over the past nine years has changed my life. The people, who I consider my friends, are alcoholics, drug and other substance abusers. Some work as prostitutes, some have HIV/AIDS, most or all have served time in jail for various offences, including drug dealing, domestic violence and murder. All of them I would trust with my life. They have declared themselves my family. I am honored that they have welcomed me.

I have heard from them sickening stories of abuse as children and babies born with drug dependencies. Most have mental and physical illnesses, suffer beatings, broken bones, stabbings, and have a fear of abusive partners, or the police, or both. Authority in any form is seen negatively, as a means to control their lives. The homeless shelters are noisy, infested with bed bugs, the scene of fights, rape and a place where personal items are stolen. Most of these people prefer to sleep inside common areas such as bank foyers, outside under bridges, or behind dumpsters.

In the conversations I recall and write on the pages of my book, Gotta Find a Home, I try to be as truthful as possible. I leave out details that I think might incriminate, but generally I try to give an accurate picture of the conversations I have with my friends. These people need help, but they want it on their own terms. They don’t choose to be uneducated, unloved, mentally ill or addicted. Addiction is a disease and should be treated as such. They live on the streets because it’s the best choice they have and they do what is necessary to survive.

Sample my books for free — To date $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
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Icarus

.

there is a space

between musical notes

between words

between lines

(very important)

there is a space

between the mind

(that tends to seclude)

and the universe

(all-encompassing)

i travel this space

there is a space

between the breathing in

and the breathing out

between the fullness

and the emptiness

between ascending

to the sun with Icarus

and the inevitable

plummeting

to earth

Sample my books for free — To date $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.98 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($2.99 Download)
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Frost

959 Jeff_Rowland_romantic_pictures (10)

 

a dove sits on a snowy bough,
her song cuts through my heart.
we both know how the lonely feels
when love is torn apart.

there never was an emptiness
the way i feel inside.
the ache is deep within my chest,
i have no place to hide.

was once a time my heart was full
when spring was in the air,
but Frost has draped me with her cloak,
my tears fall in despair.

the midnight train is leaving soon.
my bags are packed to go.
i shiver on the platform bare,
a spectre, slinking low.

Sample my books for free — To date $1995.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.98 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($2.99 Download)
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https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($2.99 Download)
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Universal Equality

In the past two weeks
I’ve had a lot of time to think
about important and unimportant things
(long story).
I have come to some very basic conclusions
as is my right and obligation.
They may seem obvious to some.

To others they may seem inflammatory.
Deal with it —
say what you want on your own page.

I believe that as humans
we deserve:
UNIVERSAL EQUALITY IN ALL ASPECTS OF LIFE,
UNIVERSAL ACCESS: TO FOOD, WATER, SHELTER,
MEDICAL TREATMENT AND AVAILABILITY OF MEDICATION,
UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO EDUCATION,
UNIVERSAL FREEDOM OF CHOICE OVER OUR OWN BODIES,
UNIVERSAL FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT,
FREEDOM OF SPEECH,
DEMOCRACY.

These are big issues
that have repercussions in news events
around the world.
I haven’t worked out all the details, yet,
but I have seen a lot of headlines on television
in print media and on the internet.

On our planet
we must eradicate (as much is humanly possible,
as opposed to what is economically viable)
HUNGER
DISEASE
VIOLENCE
HOMELESSNESS
BIGOTRY
WAR
(and others too numerous
to mention).

My neighbors:
MUST NOT starve while I eat,
MUST NOT die of illness while I have access to a cure,
MUST NOT BE CONFINED BY NATIONAL BORDERS
if their lives, health, or opportunities
are at risk,
MUST HAVE universal access to the best education
in order to best express their natural abilities,
MUST HAVE equal access to meaningful, rewarding and satisfying employment,
MUST HAVE the freedom to make their own life choices;
these choices MUST NOT be dictated by GOVERNMENT
RELIGION, SOCIETY or self-proclaimed MAJORITIES.
LYNCH MOB DEMOCRACY MUST BE ELIMINATED.

In short, I AM my brother’s/sister’s keeper.
I WILL treat them as I would prefer to be treated.
I WILL NOT be the cause of abuse,
whether physical, verbal, mental or emotional.
I WILL live my life
according to the best of my potential.

‘NUFF SAID (for now)…

Sample my books for free — To date $1995.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.98 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($2.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($2.99 Download)
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when buffalo roamed

I pray
there is a place
beyond the pain
where we will rise
in purity
above the cedars.

look down
our hearts have claimed
a rock ledge
to escape the rain,
a cathedral
among ancient pines.

stories
your grandma told
of a past
when buffalo roamed —
we were there,
we are still there
using different names.

Sample my books for free — To date $1995.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.98 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($2.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($2.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($2.99 Download)
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Melting Stars

 

 

It was a soft October night —
quietly fell the snow,
flake by gentle flake —
making domes on fence posts,
on mailboxes,
tracing upturned branches
of waiting trees.

I know you heard me
on the porch
(you always do)
thought it was
a stirring of the breeze,
or moaning
of the boards

Drawn
to quiet times
knowing you are here,
I feel your peace
(alone)
and come to you.
You know I’m here,
can feel my warmth.

I see you smile.

Let us sit in silence.
Nestle
in my embrace.
Words
need not be spoken
as we watch the melting stars,
listen for the chorus
singing somewhere else.
This moment
all that matters —
quiet filled with you.

 


Sample my books for free — To date $1995.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.98 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($2.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($2.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($2.99 Download)
Podcasts: http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
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Wild Rose

 

1f39a7bb2a11a5eeb24363a36c6e9e83

Her sweet breath fell warm and soft
like a gentle prairie breeze
wafting the scent of wild rose,
delicate, but mostly wild.

Her mane, red and dangerous,
sometimes concealed then revealed
chameleon-like features,
an emotional rainbow.

Her full lips would pout or smile
like a sudden summer storm —
thunder, lightning then sunshine,
frighteningly beautiful.

Temperament like a mustang,
skittish, demanding patience,
or she would bolt for the wild.
Gentleness would subdue her.

For a while she could be held,
raging passion directed,
hunger could be satisfied
briefly, then she would be gone.

I would not hope to contain
or to harness the wildness.
For me she will always be
my sweet, delicate, Wild Rose.

Sample my books for free — To date $1945.00 has been donated to the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1SGzGCY ($.98 Download)
http://buff.ly/1qLHptc ($2.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2lUfp6Q ($2.99 Download)
https://buff.ly/2Gkoyxj ($2.99 Download)
Podcasts: http://buff.ly/1Pxlf9p
http://www.blunttalk.libsyn.com/
http://buff.ly/1XU368M
http://buff.ly/2iYvOE4
http://buff.ly/2jdjZd6

Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Hello, my wonderful guests! Thank you all for joining me today on this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase will feature 19 amazing writers, each having their own special day of being featured on multiple blogs. I, along with the other supportive hosts, ask that after reading the written work of art by each RWISA Author, that you click on the link designated to take you directly to that author’s profile page on the actual RWISA site. On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest:

NONNIE JULES

NJ 5

and her piece is entitled:

 

EXCERPT FROM THE SEQUEL TO DAYDREAM’S DAUGHTER

(I’ve decided not to preface this piece with any details.  I’d like for the readers to try and “figure” out the direction this piece is going in.  Have fun!)

***

 

LEEZA

“Are you gonna buy me a drink or, are you just gonna sit there and stare at me?” Leeza asked the stranger at the bar.

“Uh, sure.  What are you drinking, pretty lady?”  Swirling to and fro, the man gripped the ridges of the bar to keep from falling off the bar stool.  “Hey, bartend, give this pretty lady what ‘er she wants and put it on my tab.”

Leeza looked him up and down.  Although not bad on the eyes, he didn’t strike her as a man with deep enough pockets to have a “tab” anywhere, but, who was she to judge.  

“Vodka on the rocks,” she said, waving her hand at the bartender.  When her suitor heard her request, his eyebrows raised.

“Sure you can handle that strong of a drink, pretty lady?” he asked, still teetering.

“That’s not all I can handle.” Her suggestive wink was all the invitation the stranger needed to move a little closer, even though he could barely stand.

“So, what’s your name, pretty lady?” he slurred.

“Anything you want it to be, honey,” she replied.

“Really?  Well, I want your name to be Available.  So, are you?”

As he sat waiting for her response, he reminded her of a puppy, paws perched on a windowsill, who has just noticed his master’s return home from work.

“You gotta pay to play with me,” she nudged.

“Well, honey, you finish up that there drink of yours, and let’s head up to my room.  I’m in town on business and I would love the company of a beautiful woman going by the name Available.”

In one fell swoop, she turned the shot glass up and the vodka was gone, causing the stranger’s eyes to bulge again. He’d never seen a woman down a drink as strong as that before.  

Turning away from the bar and grabbing hold of his tie, Leeza lead the way to the elevator of the hotel…the stranger following close behind, like a leashed dog.

“What’s your curfew, pretty lady?”

With doors partially closed, she took her hand and grabbed his penis through his pants.  

“I’m a big girl, single with no kids…does that sound like someone with a curfew?” she asked as the beep of the elevator signaled the arrival to their destination.  

Stumbling ahead of her, the stranger swiped his key and pushed opened the door.  Leeza walked past him, falling backwards onto the bed.

“C’mon over here and let’s finish the party we started downstairs,” she said, kicking off her heels and propping her legs up on the bed…spread-eagle.

Balancing as he walked, the stranger reached the bed with a huge grin plastered across his face.  

“C’mere.” Leeza forcefully took him by the tie once again and pulled him on top of her.

“Whoa, filly…what’s your hurry?  You said you didn’t have a curfew so why the rush?  Don’t you even wanna know my name?” he asked.

“Well, I thought your name was Ready since that’s the way you came across downstairs at the bar.”  Leeza was no longer smiling, feeling a bit toyed with, and being toyed with was the one thing she hated most.

“You’re a funny one, aren’t cha?” he chuckled.  “Ok, well let’s ‘git to what we came here for! By the way, my real name’s Jim.  Now tell me yours…”

“Nothing’s changed,” she whispered in his ear.  “I’m still Available.”

Switching off the lamp, she proceeded to undress the both of them by the orange glow of moonlight trickling through the window.   This was a typical night for Leeza. Raunchy sex with yet another man she didn’t know, nor cared to. After a while, she just lay there and let him have his way.  

Then, just as quickly as it had begun, the party was over…for her, at least.  The banging inside her head warned of the onslaught of another massive headache and there was no getting away from it.  

She could no longer enjoy herself as the next one started to take over.

 

CHRISTY

Jim opened his eyes to a blonde pointing a gun in his face.  Startled, his eyes scanned the room for the brunette he’d brought back with him the night before, but she was nowhere to be found.  

“Give me your wallet!” the blonde demanded.  

“Who are you?  And, where is Available?” he asked, his eyes still searching.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about and I don’t want to know what you’re talking about, capiche?  My name is Christy and I’m not going to ask you again. Give me…your wallet.”

Jim pointed to his clothes that he’d been stripped of the night before, strewn across the floor.  “You didn’t ask me the first time,” he said.  “My wallet’s in there. Take whatever you want, just get outta my damn room.”

Christy stooped to pick up the pants, throwing them at him; the gun, nor her eyes, ever leaving their target.  

“Hey, I don’t take orders from you. Remember that. Now give me everything in there that’s spendable.”

Jim took the cash from his wallet and threw it at her.  “Here, this is all I have,” he muttered, anger lacing his tone.

“I saw plastic.  I want those, too.  And don’t make the mistake again of throwing anything at me,” she warned, raising the gun to remind him who was in charge.

Jim mumbled something, as he gently placed three credit cards on the bed.  Christy snatched the cards up and backed slowly towards the door, but her hands had barely touched the doorknob when she heard Jim yell, “Get out, you bitch!”  

Closing the door, she calmly walked back over to the bed.  She could see the new fear which had quickly taken up residence in his eyes.  Smiling, she put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

“Don’t you ever call me a bitch again.  I told you my name was Christy!”

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

NONNIE JULES, RWISA Author Page

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Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Hello, my wonderful guests! Thank you all for joining me today on this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase will feature 19 amazing writers, each having their own special day of being featured on multiple blogs. I, along with the other supportive hosts, ask that after reading the written work of art by each RWISA Author, that you click on the link designated to take you directly to that author’s profile page on the actual RWISA site. On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest:

BEEM WEEKS

100_0319

 

and his piece is entitled:

 

Nightly Traipsing

There might’ve been a dream. Or maybe not. Violet Glass really couldn’t recall. Probably, though. A dream concerning some stupid boy—or even a girl.

Whatever.

Can’t control what creeps through your sleep.

Her body stirred awake as the blackest part of night splashed its inky resolve across that part of Alabama.

Violet stared at the ceiling, tried like the dickens to recall a face, perhaps a voice—anything belonging to the one responsible for this latest agitation.

Nothing came through, though.

Even dead of night did little to lay low that sticky heat. Old-timers in town swore oaths affirming this, the summer of 1910, to be more oppressive than any other summer since before the war between the states.

Violet eased her body from her bed; the soles of her feet found cool the touch of creaking floorboards.

There’d be nobody to catch her—not at this hour.

Nobody, but Ruthie.

And Ruthie Sender?—she’d never let on of these doings.

Violet scampered through the kitchen, flung her blue-eyed gaze against the darkened parlor. Only shadows and silence bore witness to her planned escape, a girl’s nightly traipsing.

The back door gave up with only minor provocation.

Dripping moonlight splashed the yard with a silvery sheen; promising secrets lingered among the gathered glow.

Around the rear of the house she skulked, careful to hold close to the shadows, to remain hidden from the ones who’d blab, those others who’d hold it over her head for gain.

Back behind the barn she found her crouching spot, fell low to the ground, fixed sight on the direction of Ruthie Sender’s place a few hundred yards away. Traipsing just didn’t hold its fun without Ruthie tagging along.

Violet rushed her granddad’s cotton field without that hesitation she’d known only a summer earlier.

Shadows stirred and wiggled in the distance. Figures formed, made shapes around a low-burning fire. Even at the center of all that cotton, Violet could pick out words of songs sung by the coloreds, those kin to Ruthie Sender.

They sang about standing on wood, an old slave’s saying, drawing up recollections of a time they themselves belonged to someone else.

Belonged to Violet’s kin.

Wood smoke fogged the night air.

Violet hunched low, skirted the yard where those coloreds took up with their fire and song and whiskey. Friendly sorts, all of them. Always first with a kind word, an interest in Violet’s family, how the girl’s folks were getting on—even if that interest leaned toward pretend. But that’s the nature of the matter. It’s Violet’s great-granddad who’d once owned all those souls that gave creation to the very ones now singing and drinking.

She broke through shadows collected beneath an ancient willow tree, found respite behind the Sender family’s privy, and waited for the girl to either show or not show.

The colored girl’s legs appeared first, dangling from the pantry window, bare feet scrabbling at the air, searching for a solid thing to set down upon. The thud of her sudden drop wouldn’t wake anybody.

A dingy gray nightshirt clung to Ruthie’s body. Her dark-eyed gaze landed out where she knew to find Violet. If the girl offered a smile, it couldn’t be seen—not from this distance.

“Go out back of Tussel’s, maybe?” Ruthie asked, finding space in Violet’s shadow.

“Catch a strap across my butt, I get found by that saloon again,” Violet promised. “Daddy don’t say things twice.”

Ruthie said, “Chicken liver.”

Violet backed down a notch, weighed her options. “Who’s gonna be there?”

“Fella named Ferdinand something. Plays piano.” Ruthie tossed a nod toward those others out by the fire. “They won’t share us no whiskey.”

“Won’t share up to Tussel’s, neither—unless you got some money.”

*      *      *

They were born the same night, Violet and Ruthie, back during spring of 1895. Only a few measly hours managed to wedge in between them, separated the girls from being twins of a sort.

Close enough, though.

Ruthie came first—if her folks were to be believed.

“Where we going?” Violet asked, following after Ruthie’s lead.

“Lena Canu’s place,” said Ruthie.

“How come?”

“She got stuff to drink, mostly.”

Droplets of sweat ran relays along Violet’s spine, leaving the girl’s skin wet, clammy. “Awful hot, it is.”

“She a conjure woman,” Ruthie announced, laying her tone low, protected. “—Lena Canu, I mean.”

Midnight’s high ceiling lent sparse light to the path splitting the two properties. Violet’s kin, they’d once owned the entire lot. Her great-granddad, he’s the one took notion to make things right, gave half of his land to the slaves he turned loose after the war.

Ruthie’s kin, mostly.

Senders and Canus.

Couldn’t ever really make a thing like that right, though.

A small cabin squatted in the brush; the orange glow of a lamp shined in the window. Used to be a slave’s shack, this one here.

Moonlight dripped on the colored girl’s face, showed it round and smooth, lips full and perfect, eyes alive with life and mischief. “Gonna see does she have any drink.”

Violet leaned closer, her bare arms feeling the other girl’s heat. She asked, “Can she tell fortunes?”

“Like reading a book.”

That dark door yawned wide; Lena Canu peered into the night. “I’ll tell your fortune, white girl,” she said.

Ruthie gave a nudge, guided Violet up the walk and into the shack.

A table and four chairs congregated at the center of the bare space. Kerosene fed a flame dancing like the devil atop the glass lamp. A pallet in a corner threw in its lot with the scene.

Lena Canu tossed a nod toward her rickety table. “Have you a seat, now,” she ordered, “—both of you.”

Violet sat first. Ruthie found perch across from her friend. Beneath the table naked feet bumped and rubbed, each girl assuring the other this would be a good turn.

“You one of them Glass girls, ain’t you?” Lena asked, dropping onto a chair of her own.

Violet said, “Yes, ma’am.”

Lena waved her off. “Ain’t no ma’am. Call me Lena, is all. You the one runs wild.” A pronouncement rather than a question.

Ruthie asked, “You got any liquor?”

A clear pint bottle came into the moment; its bitter amber liquid promised that sort of burn a person won’t mind.

Each girl drew off a long pull, let the heat mingle with their blood. Neither girl had ever gone full-on drunk; only a swig or two is all they ever dared.

Lena Canu, conjuring woman, spread a pile of bones over the table and commenced to ciphering future happenings a girl might need to know.

Things about boys and marriage didn’t come up. Neither did mention of babies and such. All Violet heard portended mainly to trouble.

“Quit you runnin’ wild,” Lena proclaimed, “and you be just fine.” She took up her narrow gaze again, aimed to settle matters. “But you keep doin’ what you been doin’, things gonna go bad.”

The suddenness of gunfire echoed through that sticky air. Three quick shots chased by a lazy fourth that staggered along a moment later.

Lena jumped first, ran for the door. Ruthie followed after, peering into the dark, no doubt expecting to put a face to the one pulled that trigger.

Violet remained stuck to her chair, attentions tugging between the matters outside and those sayings left to her by that conjuring woman. Did she really believe in such things, or was it all just a mess of nonsense?

“What am I gonna do to make things go bad?” she asked, supposing it wouldn’t hurt to know—just in case.

But Lena had other notions to work over. “Sounds like they come from over to your place,” she said to Ruthie.

Ruthie tipped a nod, said, “Could be they gettin’ liquored up too much, huh?”

“Might could,” answered Lena.

It happens that way, boys and their whiskey, wandering along crooked paths of discontent, blabbing things not really meant for harm—just boasting, is all.

But boasting to a drunken fella is as good as a punch on his nose.

“Gonna go see,” said Ruthie, pushing past the threshold, pressing on toward home.

Violet held her ground, let the colored girl disappear in the night. Attentions ceased their tugging, settled on the one making proclamations concerning bad manners and trouble to come.

Lena came loose of her thoughts, brought one to words, said, “Go on home now, white girl. Nighttime belongs to devils.”

*      *      *

Clouds laid a brief smudge against the moon, stripped its shine right off the night, left Violet to wonder if it really might be footsteps stumbling along behind her, following that same narrow path toward home.

“Fool boys,” she muttered, tossing nervous glances over either shoulder.

Footfalls fell heavy—like boots hammering the earth. An eager thing born of desperation.

Violet bolted left, squatted low behind a pile of brush that had the makings of a snake shelter. She held her breath and waited for the one at her back to pass on by.

A piece of tree limb came to her hand, a long and heavy thing, able to put a soul right should he come at her with wrong intentions.

That smudged moon went shiny again, dripped light across the path, showed off the shape of a man loping toward home. Tall and thin, this one; he moved quick with purpose.

Going the wrong way, though, Violet thought, waiting for the man to pass.

She gained her feet, charged his retreat, swung that heavy piece of wood and caught that interloper straight between his shoulders.

“Jay-zus!” the man hollered, hitting the ground like a sack of potatoes.

“This is private property!” Violet informed him, fixing up for a second swing.

The fella pulled up on his knees, tried to reach for that spot on his back no doubt gone swollen. He said, “It’s private property only ’cause I say so.”

Foolishness seeped into the girl. She squinted against the dark, drew recollection of his face. “Granddad?” she said, hoping her recollections proved wrong.

“What the hell are you doing out here?” he demanded, giving his legs a try.

“Came out to use the privy,” she fibbed. “Heard gunshots, came to see, is all.”

“Liar!” the old man spat. “You been gallivanting again, ain’t you?” He moved closer to the girl, sized her up, made a big fuss over her running around in only a nightshirt and nothing else. “Your daddy’s gonna hit ya where the good Lord split ya—then he’s gonna move you to your sister’s room upstairs. Won’t be no sneaking out from there.”

Her gaze caught that glint at his waistband, a familiar hunk of blued steel. “Don’t matter,” she said. “Daddy’s gonna put you in the county home.”

“On account of what?”

“On account of you’re going senile, traipsing off, bothering colored folks again with that pistol of yours.” Violet leaned closer, continued her spiel. “Heard him and Mama talking just last week, saying how you’re a danger to yourself just as much as to others.”

The old man’s jaw fell open and slammed shut; intended words went lost to the night. He couldn’t tell on her now—not without personal risk.

Defeat fogged his eyes. “I won’t tell your business if you don’t tell mine.”

Violet seized the moment with both hands. “That depends,” she informed him.

“On what?”

“Who’d you shoot tonight?”

“Nobody. Just meant to scare, is all.”

“Gonna kill somebody one day—if you ain’t already.”

“Ain’t in my blood, killin’.”

“Don’t have to mean it to do it.”

The old man pulled back, let frustration have its way. “We got a deal or don’t we?”

“You gonna leave Ruthie’s people be?”

“Just want what’s mine,” he complained.

“But it’s their land, Granddad—been so for forty-five years. A hundred guns ain’t gonna make it not so.”

He never did wear misery well.

Violet’s arms went easily around the man. She pulled close to him, breathed in that familiar odor of sweat and tobacco.

He said, “I won’t bother them no more.”

“Then we have us a deal.”

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

BEEM WEEKS, RWISA Author Page

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Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RRBCWRW

Hello, my wonderful guests! Thank you all for joining me today on this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase will feature 19 amazing writers, each having their own special day of being featured on multiple blogs. I, along with the other supportive hosts, ask that after reading the written work of art by each RWISA Author, that you click on the link designated to take you directly to that author’s profile page on the actual RWISA site. On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest:

 

GWEN PLANO

and her piece is entitled:

 

MOM’S FINAL WORDS

By Gwen M. Plano

Worn out by time, mom lay motionless on the sheets. Life lingered but imperceptibly. At ninety-one, she had experienced the full range of life’s challenges. And, now, she rested her aged shell of a body and waited.

A farmer’s daughter and wife, her life was marked by practicalities and hard work. Always up before daybreak, she prepared the meals, washed the clothes and hung them on the clothesline, and otherwise attended to the needs of the household.

Her garden was a cornucopia of tomatoes and corn, of squash and lettuces. And the refrigerator always had freshly gathered eggs and newly churned butter.    

Mom rarely paused, to catch her breath, to offer a hug, or to sit calmly. Time is not to be wasted, she taught. And so, she was always busy.

Over the years, there were multiple times that she almost died. But, with each surgery or ailment, she emerged from death’s clutches more determined than before – to surmount her difficulties, to forge a path, to care for her family. “Life is a gift,” she would say to us.  

Mom knew poverty and uncertainty. Ration coupons from the war lay on her dresser, a reminder of harsh realities. Nothing ever went to waste in our household, not food, not water, not clothing. “Many have less than us,” she claimed. She would then insist we be conservative and share.

She knew sorrow well, having lost her parents when she was young, and then two of her nine children. As the years passed, she also lost her sisters and many of her friends.

Mom was a woman of faith. Throughout the day, you could hear her quiet entreaties. Prayer was always on her lips. When mom walked from one room to the next, she prayed – for this person or that friend or for our country. She’d stand at the sink washing dishes and invoke help, from the angels, from Mary the mother of our God, and from the Holy Spirit. “Pray always,” she’d remind us.

This busy mother fought death to the end, but when the doctor finally said that nothing more could be done, she simply responded, “I am ready.”

It was then that she met with each of her seven children. Barely managing each breath, she whispered her I love you and offered a few words of guidance.

When I was at mom’s bedside, she told me she loved me, mentioned a few family concerns, and then in a barely audible voice she said, “I don’t know what to expect.”

This precious little woman, who had spent her life busy with raising a family and helping with the farm, now was unsure of what would happen next. I was surprised by the words.  

She taught me to pray when I was quite tiny. “Get on your knees,” she would instruct. “Offer up your pain for the poor souls in purgatory,” she’d suggest. Then, she’d lead us in the Lord’s Prayer. Mom had us pray for family and friends, for anyone suffering, and always for our country. She’d share stories of angels and saints, of miracles and wonders, of midnight visitations and afternoon impressions. This fragile diminutive woman had instructed my siblings and me of the invisible eternal. And, I lived with those images as a child until they became as real to me as the world we see.  

Yes, I was surprised by mom’s words to me. “I don’t know what to expect.” But then I wondered, did she know? Did she know that I had studied near-death experiences? That I had written of the dying process? Had I ever told her?

I don’t know what to expect. Simple words, but a storm of thoughts followed. I held back my tears and took her hands in mine.

“Mom, I will tell you what friends have said and what the research has shown. The angels are coming soon, mom. You will see them in the light. Just follow their lead. Your sisters will join you, as will your mom and dad and your babies. Your whole family is waiting for you. It will be a wonderful reunion. There will be much joy.”

Her breaths grew slower.

I told her of Charles, a friend I met in my prayer group. He had died twice and because of that, he had no fear of his final death. Through his experiences, he saw that life continues. He spoke of celestial beings, of extraordinary love, of boundless joy. And, he told the prayer group that he looked forward to death.  

I shared these things and more. And, as I spoke, her eyes closed, and her breathing slowed. She had fallen back to sleep, to the middle ground between this world and the next. And I wondered, did she really need to know what to expect or did she want me to remember that life never ends?

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

GWEN PLANO, RWISA Author Page

 

How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!

Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC

Hello, my wonderful guests! Thank you all for joining me today on this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase will feature 19 amazing writers, each having their own special day of being featured on multiple blogs. I, along with the other supportive hosts, ask that after reading the written work of art by each RWISA Author, that you click on the link designated to take you directly to that author’s profile page on the actual RWISA site. On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest:

 

HARRIET HODGSON

 

harriethodgson2014-websize-square

and her piece is entitled:

 

LOOK OUT WORLD: A LOVING GRANDMA IS ON DUTY

By Harriet Hodgson

Recently I read some blog posts by grandmas. Though a few posts were positive, most were negative. The grandmas couldn’t seem to find anything positive to say about aging or the wisdom they had acquired. My reaction to aging is different. Because I’m a grandma, I’m saying and doing things I’ve never done before. Maybe I need a badge that says GRANDMA ON DUTY!

I’m on marriage duty.

My husband’s aorta dissected in 2013 and he had three emergency operations. During the third one he suffered a spinal cord injury that paralyzed his legs. Since I drove him to the hospital emergency department I’ve been his caregiver and advocate. Although we have a less mobile life these days, we have a good life, and are more in love than ever. Each day is a blessing and we savor the days we have together.

I’m on GRG duty.

After my twin grandchildren’s parents died from the injuries they received in separate car crashes, the court appointed my husband and me as their guardians. (My daughter was, and always will be, the twins’ mother.) The court appointed my husband and me as the twins’ guardians and we became GRGs—grandparents raising grandchildren. According to the US Census Bureau, 10% of all grandparents in the nation are raising their grandkids. Raising the twins for seven years was a responsibility and a joy. Though the twins are adults now, I’m still a GRG when called upon.

I’m on safe driving duty.

When I noticed drivers weren’t stopping at stop signs—just slowing down and proceeding forward—I became upset. The police call this practice a “rolling stop” and it’s dangerous. What if a car hit a walking child or a child on a bike? I wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and asked drivers to follow the law and come to a full stop at stop signs.   

I’m on political duty.

Contentious as politics has become, I always vote and stay informed on issues. A friend of mine asked me to write for her political campaign, and I agreed to do it because of her teaching background and focus on children’s issues. My tasks included proofreading letters, writing new letters, helping with promotional materials, and delivering literature to homes. I was delighted when my candidate won re-election.

I’m on anti-theft duty.

We live in a townhome on a private street. It’s a safe neighborhood so I was surprised when a porch pirate stole my husband’s asthma medication. I reported the theft to the police and a detective came to our home. According to the detective, thieves look for neighborhood that have connected mailboxes, such as four linked together, because it saves them time. I also reported the theft to the neighborhood association and it is pursuing the idea of locked mail boxes.   

I’m on learning duty.

My family didn’t get a television set until I was a senior in high school. Instead of watching television, my brother and I went to the library and took out as many books as we could carry home. I still love to read. The day doesn’t seem right and is a bit “off” if I don’t learn anything that day. Learning is good modeling for grandchildren. The twins know I love to read and love to learn.

I’m on writing duty.

To keep my skills sharp, I write every day, everything from articles for websites, magazine articles, handouts to support the talks I give, and writing books. My 37th book is in production now and comes out in the fall of 2019. It’s a book about being a grandmother and I’m excited about it. I’m excited about the cover too. Waiting for the release date is going to be difficult.

I’m on giving duty.

Giving to others helps them and makes me feel good inside. I give free talks to community groups, talk to school kids about writing, and donate to the food bank in memory of my daughter. One of the best gifts I give is the gift of listening. A grandchild can feel like nobody is listening. That’s why I practice active listening. I make eye contact, nod to show I’m listening, and refrain from interrupting. Active listening takes more energy than passive listening and it’s worth the energy.

Grandmas have special skills to share with families. They are also keepers of history. “A house needs a grandma in it,” Louisa May Alcott once said, and I think she was right.

I’m just one grandma, trying to make a difference. There are millions of grandmas like me. Working alone and together, we are loving, protecting, and nurturing grandchildren around the world. Some grandmas are activists, others are advocates, and others are both. Instead of sitting around and waiting for things to change, grandmas are initiating change.

Be on the lookout for the loving grandmothers in your community. Join their efforts. If you can’t join in, support their efforts verbally and financially. The loving grandmas of the world are on duty, and always will be. Hug a grandma today!

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

HARRIET HODGSON, RWISA Author Page

 

How would you like to become a RWISA Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click HERE to make application!

Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC

Hello, my wonderful guests! Thank you all for joining me today on this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase will feature 19 amazing writers, each having their own special day of being featured on multiple blogs. I, along with the other supportive hosts, ask that after reading the written work of art by each RWISA Author, that you click on the link designated to take you directly to that author’s profile page on the actual RWISA site. On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest:

 

ROBERT FEAR

and his piece is entitled:

 

Afternoon cycle ride by Robert Fear

Ibiza, May 1977

As I set out on my cycle ride, the streets of Es Cana were busy with pale-faced holidaymakers exploring their new surroundings. I almost collided with a couple who looked the wrong way as they crossed the road.

The hire bike was a boneshaker, and as I headed out of town to the west, the road surface was uneven. The ride became rougher, and I swerved to avoid potholes. Shocks vibrated through the handlebars and I lost my grip twice. Despite this, the breeze in my face and the sun on my back felt good.

Roads twisted and turned as I followed the coast around Punta Arabi and through the outlying villages. I passed pine tree fringed sandy beaches and caught glimpses of the sea. New tourist developments dotted the coastline, in between the traditional houses, shops and bars.

After a while I came to the dusty main road that ran from the north of Es Cana. Cycling westwards towards Santa Eulalia I soon found myself in the main square where I had changed buses when I first arrived from Ibiza Town in April.

My parched throat led me in search of a drink. Opposite the Guardia Civil offices, I spotted Fred’s Bar and decided it was a good place to quench my thirst. With the bike propped against an outside wall, I walked into the gloomy interior and blinked after the bright sunshine.

At the bar I ordered a draught beer. As I stood and sipped it, I glanced around and saw groups of men sat at the wooden tables. English was the main language being spoken, and the newspapers were days-old copies of The Sun. I felt out of place amongst the rustling of papers and whispered conversations.

Chalked on a board was a small menu of English food. I ordered Shepherd’s Pie with my next beer.

‘Take a seat at that corner table and I’ll bring it over in a few minutes,’ commanded the gruff Yorkshire voice from behind the bar. I assumed that was Fred.

‘Cheers mate,’ I smiled and walked over to the seat he had indicated.

Sat on the hard, wooden chair I placed my drink on the table.

I looked up and saw a man limping from the bar. A large glass of whisky and ice almost slipped from his hand. Without a word he slumped down opposite me. He shouted greetings to others but ignored me. His voice was slurred, and he had a distinct American accent.

My food arrived, and I dug into it with a vengeance. The cycle ride had given me a good appetite. As I polished off the plate, my table companion burped and glanced towards me. I smiled at him and he grinned,

‘Looked like you enjoyed that.’

‘Yes, it was great,’ I replied, ‘have you tried it?’

‘No man, I’m not into food much, I prefer this stuff,’ he slurred and pointed to his drink.

He pulled out a pack of Camel cigarettes, flipped back the top and offered me one.

The bright neon lights of Las Vegas did nothing to improve Jack’s self-loathing. He walked the Vegas strip with head hung down and his shoulders slumped, ignoring the people rushing past him. He was desperate as he fingered the five coins in his pocket, knowing they were the last of his money

The hot, bright sun did nothing to lift Jack’s spirits. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?” His questions went unanswered. He did not know how long he had been walking, but he soon realized how hungry he was. He stopped at the intersection looking in all directions, not knowing where he was and not caring. The crosswalk signal changed, and the crowd of laughing and drunk people, pushed him out into the street. Jack looked down as he stepped onto the curb and saw a wallet. He picked it up and looked around. The people that had once surrounded him had dispersed in different directions moving far away from him.

Jack slipped the wallet into his coat pocket and walked into the nearest casino and entered the men’s room. He went into the first open stall and with shaking hands he opened the wallet revealing a large amount of one hundred-dollar bills. “This can’t be. I must return the wallet.” He searched further and found a driver’s license for a Stephen Richardson from New York City. There were credit cards plus a family photo of a man, woman, and two young girls. “I suppose this is his family.”

“I will get hold of Mr. Richardson and tell him I found his wallet.” Jack put the wallet back in his coat and left the stall. He stood in front of the mirror looking at the unshaven face and unkempt hair. He washed his face and ran his fingers through his hair. He pulled his tie up and tucked in his shirt. “Well, I look a little better. Maybe I could use one of these bills, get a shave and haircut and have enough left over for dinner and a room for the night.” Jack reasoned that Mr. Richardson will never miss one hundred dollars out of the thousands in the wallet.

The lights of the casino were less intrusive, and the noise lifted his spirits a little. Jack walked past the slot machines and gaming tables out into a hallway. He walked past clothing stores and gift shops until he came upon a barber shop. The shave with the hot fragrant towels followed by a shampoo and haircut were what Jack’s weathered appearance needed. He hardly recognized the face in the mirror looking back at him.

“Perhaps a new shirt, slacks, and jacket would not be too expensive.” Jack reasoned that he would pay Mr. Richardson back every penny once he gets back on his feet.

The memory of his gambling habits which caused the loss of his marriage, job, and friends had faded. “I will never become that person again. I will change for the better.”

The new clothes and filling steak dinner with all the trimmings, relaxed Jack, and he confidently made his way back through the casino. The slot machines were well occupied and occasionally Jack heard the screams from a winner while the lights and sirens of the winning machine blared. “I would rather play poker than throw my money down the one-armed bandit.” He stopped at a Texas Hold ‘Em table where there was one vacant seat. “A few hands won’t hurt anything. I can play with Mr. Richardson’s money and pay him back with my winnings.”

The free drinks, the smoke, the cocktail waitresses and the sound of the cards being shuffled were magic to his ears. With each hand dealt, Jack became more determined to win the big one. He eyed each of the players trying to read their body language. On the fourth deal he opened his hand to reveal two queens. The flop showed a queen, seven, and a five. Jack made a modest bet. The dealer placed another card up which was a ten. Jack called the bet made by a player across from him. They placed the final card up revealing a seven, which gave Jack a good hand of two pairs. He raised the bet from another player and watched as other players either folded or called.

“I must have a winning hand because no one is aggressively betting,” he reasoned. “I’m all in,” he announced as he pushed all $500.00 of his chips into the middle. Players folded one after another except for the man sitting across from him. Jack tried to remain calm and put his shaking hands in his lap. The noise in the casino seemed to become louder and perspiration ran down his face.

“I’ll call.” The man turned his cards over to reveal two sevens.

“That can’t be. I had you beat.” Jack felt weak and nauseous. “Hold my place. I’ll be back.” He knelt in front of the commode and vomited up his lunch. At the sink he washed his face, straightened his tie and took another $500.00 out of the wallet. At this point he did not care and had convinced himself it was his money. “I found it. Finders, keepers.”

The evening turned to long hours. There were no windows or clocks in the casino, so Jack had no awareness of the hours slipping by in the same way the money was slipping away.

Jack’s luck and poker skills did not change. He won a few small hands, but he never recouped what he lost. He took his last $100.00 bill out of the wallet. “All I need is one good hand. Just one more.”

The big winning hand never came. Jack threw the empty wallet into a trashcan and walked out into the bright, sunny and hot day. He could not adjust his eyes to the brightness as he staggered down the street. “What am I going to do? Where should I go?”

Jack did not have one more game to play. He was found on a park bench late that night, alone, penniless, and without any life force in his body, still dressed in the new clothes.

accepted it and gave him a light. We both took a deep drag on the rough taste and exhaled plumes of smoke. He moved closer and I could make out a mass of scars on his face and arms.

‘Do you live in Santa Eulalia?’ I asked, ‘you seem to know lots of people here.’

‘Yea man, been here ages now. Came to Ibiza in ’73. I’ve got a small apartment just outside the town, overlooking the sea.’

I looked at him with curiosity, ‘so you work here then?’

He threw back his head and laughed. All eyes turned in his direction as the raucous laugh subsided into chuckles.

‘No man, I’m pensioned off from the Army. I was in Vietnam. Halfway through my second tour I got blown to smithereens and was lucky to survive. They shipped me to the States, filled my body with metal and stitched me up. I was in hospital for months and still go there twice a year for check-ups.’

My jaw dropped, and I looked at him with a new respect. He continued,

‘The climate here helps my aching bones, and the booze is cheap. I’ve made friends, although most of them think I’m crazy. I suppose I am sometimes!’ he mused.

‘Did you want another drink?’ I asked him, to break the momentary silence.

‘A large bourbon, with water and ice would be great, thanks man.’

Back at the table I clinked my glass against his. ‘Salut!’

We chatted a while longer and I told him about the work I was doing. His eyes glazed over. He nodded as I talked, but I sensed his mind was elsewhere.

‘I have to go now,’ I said, as I stood up and offered my hand.

‘Nice talking to you man, all the best and hope to see you again.’ He gave me a weak handshake from his seated position.

‘Yes, me too, my name’s Fred.’

‘I’m Michael, or Mike, also known as Mad Mike by my friends. Take care on your ride back to Es Cana.’

He waved over as I headed out of the door.

The bike had fallen over, but it was still there. I had not thought to secure it two hours before when I entered the bar. I figured it was safe parked opposite the police station.

With a slight wobble I set off along the main road towards Es Cana. A car came straight at me and I had to swerve. Out of habit, I had started out on the left-hand side of the road. With a wrench of the handlebars I switched to the right and just avoided a collision.

That could have been nasty!

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

ROBERT FEAR, RWISA Author Page

 

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Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC

Hello, my wonderful guests!  Thank you all for joining me today on this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase will feature 19 amazing writers, each having their own special day of being featured on multiple blogs.  I, along with the other supportive hosts, ask that after reading the written work of art by each RWISA Author, that you click on the link designated to take you directly to that author’s profile page on the actual RWISA site.  On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest:

D. L. FINN

Poetry by D. L. Finn

 

DARKNESS

The air is thick as you breathe it in

Filling your lungs with its silence.

It unnerves you when you’re alone

Because in the darkness there are shadows.

They are filled with the unknown

While the quiet is lurking with danger.

It’s unseen, watching while your heart is racing

And your skin drenched in sweat, you scan the night.

You see nothing and hear nothing

Yet, you know it’s there.

You hurry back into the light where it’s safe

Shut the door and lock it with a sigh of relief.

You quickly forget the darkness

But, what you don’t know is…

It hasn’t forgotten you.

 

TO FLY (Musings from the Back of a Harley)

We fly by the ranches…

Cows, goats, and horses.

Grazing golden-grass untroubled…

As we rumble loudly past them.

The ponds are rain depleted…

Fall harvest signs invite us to stop.

 

But, today is a day to fly…

To fly past normalcy

To fly past worries

To fly past obligations.

 

They rush by us like the scenery…

Soaring past our leather-clad bodies.

They crash behind us like a boat’s wake…

Miraculously missing us in our frantic flight.

Yet, all is forgiven flying on our motorcycle…

As our souls chaperon our journey.

 

THE RIVER’S GIFTS

It’s smooth and gentle on a warm spring day…

The rocks and trees are mirrored in its purity.

The beach’s sandy-warmth caresses me…

As I skim a flat rock across the water’s surface.

Eight small splashes are my reward…

Expanding into rings that disappear into flow.

Fish swim with the current beneath…

Hawks soar above searching for their next meal.

I deeply breathe in the serenity shared by the river.

A delicate butterfly swoops down and rests in front of me…

I want to touch it, be a part of its splendor, as I watch it fly away.

It finds nectar on a purple flower at the water’s edge…

I inhale bliss as the butterfly’s hunger is satisfied.

Searching up river I find water cascading down a rocky ledge.

I pause to drink in the magnificence and wisdom…

The river can negotiate any obstacle and continue its journey.

Here next to the flowing wonder, I find peace, and beauty…

I absorb this into my being, with gratitude, for the river’s gifts.

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

D. L. FINN, RWISA Author Page

How would you like to become a RWISA  Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click  HERE to make application!

Welcome to the WATCH “#RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC

Hello, my wonderful guests!  Thank you all for joining me today on this amazing showcase tour being sponsored by RWISA (RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS), an elite branch of the amazing RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB!

This showcase will feature 19 amazing writers, each having their own special day of being featured on multiple blogs.  I, along with the other supportive hosts, ask that after reading the written work of art by each RWISA Author, that you click on the link designated to take you directly to that author’s profile page on the actual RWISA site.  On my blog, that link will be the author’s name.

Today’s special guest:

JAN SIKES

and her piece is entitled

PARADISE BELOW

Emma Dupont shifted her backpack and lowered her head as she struggled through the crowded street. Panic struck as the sunlight faded.

          It would mean sure death to get caught out after dark

          “Watch where you’re goin’, you stupid bitch!”

Rough hands shoved her into the edge of speeding traffic. With great effort, she steadied herself, stepped back onto the sidewalk, and quickened her pace.

          Making sure no one noticed her, she ducked into an alleyway and banged on the side of a blue dumpster with a series of raps. A camouflaged door slid open.

          She tossed her backpack inside then hurried down the metal steps into the arms of a dark-haired man who held her while she sobbed.

          “Susan, please bring Emma a cup of tea,” he instructed.

          A tall blonde woman hurried away.

          “I can’t go back up there again, Donovan. I just can’t.” Emma moaned. “They are no more than savages. Armed soldiers are everywhere, questioning everyone, barely controlling the mobs of hate-filled people. It’s awful.”

          She didn’t tell him she’d felt someone watching her as she pushed through the street. The noose was tightening, but she’d die before she’d expose their hiding place.

          Donovan rubbed her shoulders. “Don’t think about that right now.”

          Susan appeared with a steaming cup and pressed it into Emma’s hands.

          “Try to relax,” Donovan tucked a tendril of brown hair behind her ear.

          Emma sank down against the cold concrete wall and let the warmth of the tea soothe her ragged nerves She watched while Donovan emptied the contents of the backpack.

          When he looked up, his eyes shone. “You did good, love. We almost have enough.”

          After the last election, conditions in the US had deteriorated. Humanity had gone crazy. Hate flourished and people killed each other over the slightest disagreement. Satan reigned.

          Evil permeated every corner. Small handfuls of people banded together and escaped into underground tunnels determined to live in peace and raise their children.  

          Fed up with the insanity, Emma didn’t hesitate to join. Her group had one plan.

          They had to get to Mexico.

           The government’s restriction of money forced them to withdraw small amounts at a time. Emma’s experience of working in banks gave her the ability to gather the funds they needed to escape.

          They were almost there, but nine months of living beneath the crazed streets of Dallas had taken its toll, especially on the children. Deprived of vitamin D, they grew lethargic and pale.

          Resources, time and patience grew thin.

          “I’ve been in communication with others in Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. We’re almost ready to make our move,” Donovan said. “But, one mistake will mean death.”

          Emma nodded. She didn’t care. The thought of dying didn’t frighten her.

          Jasmine tea helped slow her heart rate and settle her nerves. 

          Donovan dropped beside her. “I never imagined that the ‘Land of the Free’ and the ‘Home of the Brave’ would deteriorate into such a state of evil, and hate.” He blew out a long sigh. “We’ve lost everything.”

          Emma placed a hand on his arm. “But, we haven’t given up. And, we’ve kept love in our hearts.”

          Susan and several others gathered around. “With trust in God and help from the angels who watch over us, we’ll survive,” she said. “We’re the future of humanity. We are the Lightworkers.”

          They formed a circle and joined hands. In a melodic voice, a woman with straight black hair sang, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…”

          Voices blended sweetly, and an essence of light filled the dank tunnel.

###

Melchizedek bowed his head overcome with the beauty and faith of the small group. He called Nemamiah and Charmaine to his side.

          “It is almost time. We must rally everyone to watch over and help them. Please meet with the Ashtar Command and give them a report.”

          Nemamiah folded his wings and nodded. Charmaine smiled and opened her wings to take flight.

          “It is done.”

###

Emma barely survived her last venture above ground. When three hoodlums grabbed her and dragged her into a deserted alleyway, she fought hard, but they stuffed a dirty rag in her mouth and kicked her with the sharp toes of their boots.

          From their sneers and insinuations, she knew they intended to take more than the contents in her backpack. She silently prayed.

          The moment her attackers dumped the money out of her backpack, a flock of Ravens descended from nowhere, flapping their wings and pecking at their heads and eyes until they ran screaming from the alley.

          Emma was sure they’d attack her next, but to her surprise, the birds hovered around her while she picked up the money, then flew above her while she ran for safety.

          She shook her head when Donovan questioned her bruises and told him the angels had protected her.

          Wheels were in motion. They would soon be away from the nightmare.

Donovan gathered the group for final instructions. “Travel light. Anything you don’t need, leave it. We have two vans, but there’s limited room.”

          While the rest did the same, Emma gathered her belongings. She wouldn’t take more than she could carry on her back. She stared at a photo before tucking it into a zippered pocket. That life was gone. All she had left was her faith, strong will, and this family determined to live in peace.

          By the time the twelve adults and four children were ready, the first shy rays from the sun graced the sky. It would be a long day.

          They piled into the vans in an orderly manner. Donovan would drive one vehicle, and Michael the other.

          Emma got into Donavon’s van. They’d grown close over the months of their confinement. She wouldn’t call it romance, but pure love. She’d grown to love all these gentle souls. Together, they would build a new life in paradise.

          They slapped magnetic signs on the sides of the vans that read, “Hollow Road Baptist Church” and crawled through early morning traffic toward I-35 south. 

          They hit a roadblock a few miles outside Dallas.

          “Remember what we rehearsed,” said Donovan as he pulled over.

          Several of the group placed Bibles on their laps. Emma held her breath.

          Armed soldiers approached. “Papers,” one soldier barked, “and state your destination.”

          “Camp Zephyr, sir, for a retreat.”  Donovan handed him papers.

          Soldiers surrounded both vans and peered through the windows. Emma was sure they could hear her heart pounding. She forced a smile.

          Donovan stared straight ahead.

          After what seemed like forever, the soldier passed the papers back through the window. “You can go. But, stay on the main roads. There are crazies around.” He motioned them on.

          Donovan nodded and pulled away. “Emma, pull up GPS and find a back route, then tell Michael what we’re doing.”

          The route took them through miles of open pasture and small Texas towns. Finally, their headlights pierced the darkness and lit up a rusted VW van shell.

          Donovan pulled to a stop. “Everyone stays put until we know it’s safe.”

          He jumped out. He and Michael hurried toward the VW, looking in all directions.  

          Emma chewed her fingernails and stared out the window. Nothing could go wrong now. They were so close.

          Donovan had explained that a Coyote would escort them through the tunnel into Matamoros, where they would find papers and transportation.  

          When the men turned and waved, the group grabbed their belongings and exited the vans. One-by-one, they climbed down rickety wooden steps into a damp tunnel. Flashlights reflected off dirt walls supported by boards and rocks.

          Painted on one board, “Paradise Below” promised a long awaited redemption. The narrow tunnel forced them to walk single-file, and some taller men had to hunch over.

          But, discomfort didn’t matter.

          In an hour, they emerged onto a deserted side street in Matamoros where a dilapidated bus waited.

          Without a word, the group filed onto the bus. The driver closed the door and ground the gears into forward motion.

          Emma sat beside Donovan and reached for his hand. “We’re going to make it.”

          He sighed and leaned back against the seat. “We are.”

          A brilliant red sun rose over the ocean, bringing with it a new day, as the bus lumbered to a stop many hours later. Gentle waves lapped the shore and seagulls cawed as they swooped down searching for breakfast.

          When the bus door opened, a couple dressed like American tourists greeted each person.

          A woman with flaming red hair hugged Emma. “Welcome to Mexico. I’m sure you’re exhausted. We have rooms prepared for each of you.”

          “Thank you,” Emma murmured soaking up the tropical scenery.

         Paradise! They’d made it. No more hate, no more violence, and no more hiding.

          They’d reached Pueblo de Luz, (City of Light).

          A band of angels hovered above the group with tears of joy shining in their eyes.

          There was hope for humanity.

          Hope in these small groups that dared to keep love alive.  

 

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today! We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs. Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent! Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

JAN SIKES, RWISA Author Page

 

How would you like to become a RWISA  Member so that you’re able to receive this same awesome FREE support? Simply click  HERE to make application!