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A Short Story - Aches-n-Pains

April 22, 2020
Onstage in Texas

Aches‐n‐Pains

By Chip Wiegand

Jackson, an appropriate name for a rock star, you think? This was where he felt at his best, this was his time to be on top of the world. Here he was all smiles, comfortable, even relaxed, unlike the real world, off of this stage, and outside this place. But, only as long as he had a guitar slung around his shoulders or a sax hanging from his neck. Take either of those away and you won't find him up here in front of all those people. Hundreds of people out there looking up at that stage at him and his 5 buddies. They make up Aches‐n‐Pains. An appropriate name for a band of guys in their 40s and 50s. Only about half the spots were on before they start the concert and dance and Jackson could feel the warmth from them already, his whole body was warming up and he was feeling energized by the sounds from the people who came to see the band and dance to their music. It was going to be another night of fun, excitement, sweating musicians, and ear‐splitting noise. And he loved it. He reveled in it. That was where he belonged.

Two a.m. arrived quickly. The owners of restaurants and bars like this were always strict about closing time. They know the law said no more alcohol sales after 2 am so they used that as their closing time. And they told all the bands to stop at 2 am. Not 2:05. But that was okay with the guys because they were being cooked by those spotlights and were happy that they would be turned off, finally, after 4 hours of playing in their heat. Those lights put out as much heat as they do light. The guys put down their instruments and walked to the bar where the owner gave a packet of money to Jimmy, the leader, and then gave all the guys shots of his best Tequila. It takes a little while for the adrenaline rush to come down, and the Tequila probably didn't help with that, but it did give them all a chance to congratulate each other for another gig well performed. Another "audience" kept excited for an evening. Then it was time to pack up all the equipment and finally leave for home.

The drinking/self‐congratulations part was always no more than 15‐20 minutes, the packing part at least an hour. The driving home part could be anywhere from an hour to 5 hours. After that evening's show, it was half‐way across the state and about 4 hours of non‐stop very early morning driving, with tired eyes. They got to watch the sunrise in their mirrors while they drove along the interstate. Nobody said much, and the ones who weren't driving were sleeping. They didn't have a luxury bus or even a small RV. They had their cars and a pickup pulling a trailer. This repeats 2 or 3 Saturdays a month, some weekends would have Friday and Saturday gigs, in different towns. It wasn't the life of the glamorous international rock star. And that packet of money? That amounted to a hundred bucks, maybe a bit more, for each one of them. Hardly enough for all the time that went into the evening, but that wasn't important, because being on that stage was what they loved to do.

Jackson pulled into his driveway around 8 am and found his wife in the kitchen preparing breakfast for her and the boys, Richie and Bobbie. They were both young musicians in the making. They and their mother never really paid much attention to Aches‐n‐Pains. That was daddy's thing. And the boys weren't really into that kind of music. Jackson had always wished, to himself, that the family would be a bit more interested, but it just wasn't there.

"How was the gig?" asked Brenda as she stirred eggs in a pan. Brenda may not have been interested in the band but she supported everything Jackson did in the band, allowed him to buy instruments, and whatever he needed for his "hobby". But never actually saw the band perform.

"Very good." He kissed her, hugged the boys, took a shower, and went to bed.

His day job was in a warehouse. He was the guy who took care of the paperwork for shipping the goods all over the US, Canada, and Mexico. He didn't have the title of "manager" but he managed the shipping and receiving side of things. A dead‐end job. Not exciting, but it kept him busy for 9 hours a day. And it paid the bills. Well, it combined with Brenda's job paid the bills. The band money was just pocket cash.

"Hey, Jackson! Come here," the boss was yelling from his office.

He put down his work and strolled to the manager's office and sat down, thankful for the chance to get off his feet. "What's up?"

"Friday is our quarterly meeting and I want you to do a presentation on the shipping department,"

"What? Why me? I'm no good in front of crowds." Then he thought, but didn't say, "unless I have my bass or my sax in my hands."

Jackson knew about his band and had even seen them play a couple of times. He smiled and said, "Come on, Jackson, you're great up there on stage. I've seen it, you love it, being in front of all those people."

Why did I ever ask him to come to one of our gigs? And then he came to a couple of others. And now he wants me to give a presentation. This isn't good. "Yeah, I'm good on stage, but that's different."

"No, it's not. Just think you're up there with all those people dancing. Piece of cake! Remember, Friday, 9 am, be ready!" That was that. Jackson was already feeling anxious, nervous.

The days passed too quickly. He just finished the presentation early Friday morning. Jackson was a nervous wreck. Hands sweating, forehead sweating, cheeks flushed. The one thing in the whole world he dreaded the most was speaking in front of a group. Any group of any size. Just standing up in front, all those eyes peering at him, some anxious for whatever he managed to stutter out of his mouth, others anxious for him to finish and sit down.

"Thank you, Jenny, for that report on accounts receivables. Now we'll hear from Jackson. He's going to fill you in on what's happening in the shipping and receiving side of things. Jackson…" The boss smiled ear to ear, held his hand out for Jackson, and passed the remote control for the projector to Jackson, who immediately dropped it. When it hit the floor the battery cover popped off and the batteries bounced out and rolled across the room. Now he was really nervous. "Shit! What a disaster! Right from the beginning!"

He looked up at some shocked faces, some laughing faces, then realized he said that out loud. "Um, excuse me, sorry, I, I'm not good at this kind of thing."

"Jackson, I've seen you perform on stage many times, you can do this better than anyone." The boss just wouldn't let up.

He went on with his presentation, stuttering, stumbling, faltering all the way through. His sweaty hands dropped the remote two more times. He did eventually get through the presentation and managed to finish it with a flurry of words that didn't make a lot of sense.

Just for fun everyone stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Jackson wasn't having any fun and stormed out of the conference room.

"Okay, that's good for today, everyone back to work." The boss closed the meeting and went to talk to Jackson before finishing his own day.

Back at home Jackson let loose on his wife, "Holy shit, Brenda! My presentation was a disaster today! You should've seen me! I was a nervous wreck! That stupid boss! Why'd he make me do that?"

"Oh sweetie, I'm sorry. Sit down and I'll get something to eat." She gave him a hug and a kiss and prepared dinner for him. He always felt better with her arms wrapped around him and her warm lips pressed to his.

The band was scheduled to play at an awards festival for Texmex music, in Texas, the next weekend. That is something he looked forward to. He'd be upfront again but this time with a saxophone in his hands, and the crowd cheering, dancing, and clapping to the music. The only sweating he would be doing was caused by the hot stage lights and the non‐stop dancing while playing music. And he loved it!

"Hey Jackson, what would you do if we actually won one of these awards festivals and had to go up on stage without our instruments?" One of the guys in the band loved to tease him about his insecurity.

"You could go up on stage and I'd just watch from the crowd."

"But the whole band would have to go up to receive the award."

"Well, then I'd take my sax up with me."

"You really do need that to hide behind, don't you?"

"I don't hide behind it, Sonny."

"Really? Then why would you take it with you?"

"I just feel better if I have it, or one of my other instruments, between me and the crowd. That's all. Now drop it."

"Fine. I hope we win that award one of these years."

A year passes by and thankfully the boss hadn't asked him to do any more presentations, but something even more worrying occurred ‐ at the next year's festival the band won! And they had to go up on stage to receive an award.

"Here they are ladies and gentlemen ‐ Aches‐n‐Pains!" The emcee made a really big deal out of winning the award and got the crowd to cheer even louder as the band walked up onto the stage. Except not Jackson.

"Thank you, for this award, but hey, Jackson, get up here! We're not complete without you!" He tried to hide behind Brenda. It didn't work. She was too small for him to hide behind. This was her first year going to the festival. To the audience, "He's a bit shy, believe it or not!" The crowd started chanting Jackson! Jackson Jackson! He had no choice, he had to go up there.

Brenda pushed him, and pushed him some more, then took him by his hand and led him up the steps and gave him another push. Jackson immediately went to the back of the group. The crowd cheered for the guys and they all waved and smiled back at the cheering people. Jackson couldn't help but feel the pride well up inside him, but it wasn't enough to get him to step out in front. But nobody cared about that at that moment. But Brenda could see the fear and anxiety in his eyes.

"Brenda, you shouldn't have pushed me up onto that stage tonight," he told her when they were laying in bed in their hotel.

"Oh, come on, Jackie, you had to go up there, you know that. The crowd wanted you up there. The band wanted you up there."

"I know, but it was terrible! I was sweating like a dog! My hands were shaking! My heart was pounding at a hundred miles an hour."

"Sweetheart, you really should talk to someone about this problem of yours."

"I don't need a shrink."

"Not a shrink, baby, but some kind of therapist or counselor. I'm sure they could help you learn how to cope with your anxiety."

"I'm tired, let's go to sleep. We can talk about at home."

A week later Jackson and two other band members were at the local radio station to do an interview. The DJ asked "Where does the name of the band come from? Why do you call yourselves Aches‐n‐Pains?"

One of the guys gave the whole story, the history of the band, but it got to be too long, so Jackson interrupted, "The history is long and boring, it comes down to this ‐ we're a band of old guys and we all suffer from some kinds of aches and pains. That's it."

The DJ said, "So, tell me, tell your fans that are listening, what are the aches or pains you suffer, Jackson?"

"It's not important."

"Sure it is, your fans want to know this stuff about all of you guys."

"I read our fan mail and I see the questions they ask, and you know what? They ask about the name of the band, but they don't ask about what ails each of us individually." He was getting impatient and testy and the DJ noticed. Jackson got up and left the studio and the DJ continued asking the other guys about their aches and pains.

Brenda wasn't impressed and told him so, "Jackson! Why did you do that today? During the interview? I can't believe you responded like that. Both the boys were listening to your interview. And then you just walked out? Really? What got into you?"

"That DJ got into me, that's what!"

She made arrangements for them both to talk to a counselor the next week. Jackson wasn't happy about it but he did agree to go.

As the sessions passed, week after week, month after month, Jackson slowly learned to control his anxiety and all that went with it. He was never as comfortable on stage without an instrument as he was with one, but that was okay. He could at least give a presentation without dropping the remote control 3 times and swearing when the batteries bounced out. He could stand at the front without his hands shaking, even if his feet were non‐stop bouncing a little, in his boots.

And Brenda and the boys actually went to watch a few of his gigs, and they started to enjoy the music that he had chosen to play.

A Short Story - The Garden

April 14, 2020
An iguana in a garden.

The Garden

By Chip Wiegand

Her garden. The one place in the world she felt safe, at peace, one with herself and nature. Peaceful, quiet. Colorful, where the colors handed her every imaginable aroma, helping her relax and forget about the life she lived. In the center was a rose tree full of pink roses with just enough shade for her to sit in, protected from the bright sun beating down on her world.

The garden isn't big. Just 20 feet by 30 feet, roughly, but filled with an incredible variety of color. Flowers from all over the world filled this little space. There were paths to walk, like a maze, but they all ended at that rose tree in the center. The sounds of the city were far away and easily forgotten here. The sounds of birds and bees, the soft fluttering of butterflies - those were at the heart of the garden. They helped her forget what would be soon coming. This little piece of heaven on earth was hers and hers only, and nobody, not even he, was allowed to enter.

She arrived at the same time every day, just a half-hour before sunset. Slowly walking among the flowers, pausing to gently touch and smell many of them, feeling the soft petals and leaves, and smiling and whispering to each one. They seemed to respond to her love by giving her an amazing place to come and be herself, or anybody she could imagine. And she imagined being somebody else often. Life inside the garden was the life she cherished and wished she could have all day long.

Sitting under the rose tree and listening to the sounds around her she watched the sun set behind the far away mountains. First bright yellow, then slowly morphing into a strong orange, and finally deep red, it sank behind the Wishing Well Mountains. She gazed at the colors in the sky, fading away to dark blue, then dark purple, and finally darkness. She gazed at the emerging stars, sparkling yellows, greens, and reds.

The peacefulness of the garden was interrupted, as it is every day at this time, by the sound, or more appropriately, the noise, of her husband's car. That unmistakable sound that a car makes when the engine has been modified as much as it can be, and then the mufflers removed so it can be even louder. That's what he did because it matches what his personality has morphed into - loud, obnoxious, rude, selfish. And as is the case with such personality traits, he didn't care. He didn't care if it interrupted your peaceful, relaxing time in her garden; he didn't care if it was louder than your family conversation at the dinner table, a block away; he didn't care if it broke your concentration while catching up on the daily news. He just didn't care.

The noise finally ended when he entered the driveway and turned off the ridiculous car. He got out, all smiles and proud of what he just did to the entire neighborhood and every home along the street. She had quickly stood up from under the rose tree and hurried into the house, put on an apron, and started preparing something for his dinner. All the while wondering, "how did we come to this?"

It hadn't always been like this. He wasn't this person when they met some 20 years before. If he had been she wouldn't have even given him the time of day, let alone her heart, her love, her care, and attention. Her life. "How did we come to this?" was the ever-present question she had yet to find an answer to. She hoped to find it in the garden, but such a place of beauty is not for such thoughts. It was for escaping to other, more pleasant thoughts.

He walked in, threw his hat and jacket on a chair, kicked off his dirty boots and pushed them aside, but still in the middle of the floor, all without even looking at her, not even a kiss on the cheek.

"How was your day today?" She asked the same question every day at the same moment and received the same answer. Well, it's been the same answer for some time now. It wasn't the same answer before, but before what? What changed?

"Same as always," he grumbled back at her. "I'm hungry, where's my food?"

"It's just about ready."

"I'm tired of waiting. I'm going out."

What happened to your patience? What happened to you? was what she wanted to ask, but instead, "But, it's just finishing right now."

He yanked on his boots, stood up, and stormed off, leaving her holding the plate with the food he was too impatient to wait for. "What did I do wrong?" Tears started to fall from her brown eyes. She sat down at the table and ate the dinner, alone, sad, and frustrated by the man she once loved with all her heart.

A few minutes passed into a few more minutes and she was washing the dishes, cleaning up the kitchen, when she heard his cell phone ringing. It was in his jacket pocket, the jacket he hadn't taken with him when he stormed away. She picked up the jacket, found the phone, removed it from the pocket, all while looking nervously around the room - was he here? Of course not, he left in a huff. She pressed the green button and put the phone to her ear, and listened.

"Hey man! What's up? Why have't you answered any of my calls? Are you there? Say something! I want my money and I want it now! You know what'll happen if you don't pay up!"

"Um, hi, this is his wife. He's gone out and left his phone behind."

"Oh, shit, sorry." And the other man immediately disconnected.

What was that about? Money? Is he in some kind of trouble? What money? What's he doing?

She went to her laptop and logged into the bank account. Normally he takes care of the banking, the finances. Well normally only applied to these past 5 years or so. He told her it was the man's responsibility. She didn't argue with him. That was pointless and a waste of breath and time. What she discovered shocked her. They had less than 500 dollars in their account, and she saw two big withdrawals, cash withdrawals. And there was a bank loan as well, one she didn't know about. What was he up to? What did he do with their money?

She decided enough was enough. That wasn't just his money. It was hers as well. This time she would stay right there and wait for him to return, then she would look him in the eyes and ask Just what the hell are you up to? Where's our money? What did you do with it?

One hour, two hours. She was getting tired. Three hours, four hours, where was he? Why was he out for so long?

Finally, around 1am, she heard his obnoxious car coming up the road, pull into the driveway, turn off, and the door slam closed. He came back into the house and saw her waiting for him.

"Why are you still up? You know what time it is?"

"Why have you been out so long? Where did you go? What have you been doing all evening?" She was almost, but not quite, yelling at him, her hands shaking a little as she wiped a tear from her cheek.

"Oh, relax! It was nothing. Now, go to bed."

"You had a phone call."

He felt his pockets, looking for his phone, "I did?" Now he was the nervous one.

"Yes, and the man said he wants his money. What money is that, darling?" She said darling with a lot of sarcasm in her voice. "Would that be our money?"

"What did you do?" He yelled at her, grabbed his jacket and searched the pockets for his phone. She handed it to him. "Why did you answer my phone? MY phone! Not yours! You don't touch my phone, get it?"

"Yes, I answered your phone. And I checked our bank account, and guess what I saw?"

"I told you to stay out of the bank account, remember? I told you I would take care of it!"

"Well, it appears you're not doing such a good job of that." And immediately after the words she regretted saying them.

He raised his arm as if to hit her, something he's never done before, then changed his mind, turned and rushed back outside. The noisy car fired up, the wheels screeched for all to hear, and he was gone, again.

Now her mind was reeling. A man called and said he wants his money back. So he's not having an affair. He took out a bank loan. So they didn't have enough money for whatever it was he was doing. What was he up to? Had he started gambling? I've never known him to be a gambler. It was far too much money for somebody drowning in alcohol, or prostitutes. But what could it be? Who was the voice on the phone?

With all these thoughts running through her head she slowly faded off into a restless sleep.

When she woke up she was still alone. He hadn't returned from where ever he had gone not too many hours before. She brewed some coffee, took a cupful out to the garden, sat under the rose tree, and let her mind wander off to other, more pleasant, thoughts. But only for a short while, as she would have to be going to her own job shortly.

That afternoon when she returned home there was another shock in store for her - the house was empty! Everything was gone! Absolutely everything, as in 100% of everything. What on earth? What happened? Where's all my stuff? My furniture? My pictures? My dishes? Where's, everything? She was in shock at the sight. She fell to her knees and cried. She dropped her head into her hands and sobbed. She slumped onto her belly on the floor, now just about wailing, Why? Why did he do this? Why!? And she lay there, crying, for a while, until she had exhausted every ounce of strength in herself.

She struggled to push herself up. Standing on wobbly legs, she looked around at the empty house, not a chair in sight. She sat on the floor. And cried again.

Finally, she got up and walked out to the garden, at least it was still there. He hadn't taken that away from her. She thought maybe it was too much work for him to dig it all up so he just left it. She walked among the flowers, touching them, petting their leaves, smelling their scents. Tears falling on the petals. She watched the butterflies and bees kissing each one, passing the love from one to the next. She wanted someone to do that to her. Flowers have a power over her, over just about everyone. She could almost feel the flowers, bees, and butterflies comforting her. It took a few minutes, but she eventually gave in to the power of the garden, smiled, relaxed, and sat under the rose tree. She felt like the garden smiled back at her. She forgot about the house, the things that were now gone, the husband who turned his back on her, and submerged herself in the love that was coming from all around her in the garden.

As she sat under the rose tree it dropped a pink petal onto her lap. She looked at it, just sitting there, one petal. One lonely petal. But, it wasn't alone, it had her, it had many other petals up above, it had many flowers of every imaginable color all around it. She thought I am alone, but I'm not lonely. I have all my friends, my flowers, here in the garden. They love me unconditionally, day after day, unending. She gently lifted the soft pink petal off her lap, raised it to her nose, smelled the scent of it, and it was good. It filled her heart with love that only comes from the natural world around us; it filled her mind with thoughts of wonder, sweet thoughts of Him who gave all of this to us. And she fell asleep.

All the crying had drained her of all her energy, and she slept all evening and through the night. It was a wonderful, deep sleep, there under the rose tree, surrounded by love, by beautiful colors, and wonderful scents.

And he had not returned. No noise to interrupt the neighborhood. No complaining or griping. No demanding his meal Right Now! It turned out to be a wonderful, rejuvenating night, something she desperately needed.

Morning came and the rising sun woke her from her slumber. She looked at her watch and thought Oh my god! What have I done? I didn't cook him dinner! What's going to happen? Another rose petal dropped onto her lap after brushing past her nose and she came back to reality - he wasn't here, he hadn't returned last night. She let herself smile, a little guilty for feeling some kind of comfort in that thought.

Back in the house, she prepared for another day a work. At least she had her clothes, still hanging in her closet. He hadn't taken those. And he had left a few toiletries, just enough for her to take care of herself. He hadn't been generous in any way, mind you, but he did leave her a few personal things. She went to work, refreshed by a night in the garden. Determined to not let what happened ruin her day.

That afternoon when she returned home she looked at the empy kitchen - no appliances, no cookware, no, well, nothing. What could she do? She sighed. She called a restaurant and had dinner delivered, and ate in the garden under the rose tree. She thought, "what could be better?"

But reality hit when she notice there wasn't even a garbage can in the house. Okay. She had to do something, but what? Where to start? She called the bank and spoke to the manager but he had no information about the loan or the withdrawals. She called his brother but he too knew nothing, and hadn't even talked to him for several years. She called the one friend of his she knew, and he too, claimed to know nothing, but said he had been acting strangely lately, meaning for a couple years, but had no idea about what he was up to.

All dead ends. She still had her laptop. But he never even touched that, as far as she knew. She did a history search on it just to be sure. And no, nothing there as well.

She went to the local bar hoping to find him, but he wasn't there. She asked the bartender and some others about him but they hadn't seen him that day. She went to two more bars and got the same results.

It was getting late so she went home. The house was empty, not even a bed, nor a chair. She slept outside in the garden again. It was a sweet refuge she could never live without. There she felt comfort from the flowers that she wasn't getting from her husband. Here she felt the companionship he wasn't giving her. Here she felt needed and wanted. Here she felt love. And that is what she needed now more than anything else.

The next day she took the day off from work. She asked around the neighborhood and eventually found one man who had seen him in a bar on the other side of town. She drove across town to that other bar and asked around and discovered something interesting.

Yes, he had been there, many times. But, only to meet another man, always the same man, and he would give the man a small package. She wondered if maybe that small package had been their money. The bartender told her he never stayed, never drank, only gave the man the package and then left. And then the bartender complained about the noise from his car. She thought what a strange thing for the bartender to complain about when his own bar has loud music playing. Oh well. At least she had a little more information.

Outside the bar, she started walking down the sidewalk to her car, when someone came up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder, "Hey lady, the guy you're asking about, who is he to you?"

What a strange question, she thought, and replied, "He's my husband".

"Oh, I see. Well, I think you can find him at the General Patton over on South 13th."

"What's that? Another bar?"

"No, it's a club, of sorts."

"Of sorts? What does that mean? Is it a place I shouldn't, or can't, go?"

"Well, they do permit women, but you might want to take someone with you, a man, I mean."

"Just tell me what is it? What kind of place is it?"

"Look, it's a rough place for rough people, the kind of place for people like your husband."

"What's that supposed to mean? What kind of man is my husband?"

"You don't know? You don't know what he does?"

"I know he does his job, every day, at construction sites. He's an engineer."

"Well, he's an engineer of sorts, yes, I suppose you could put it that way. And I know he's done some work at one or two construction sites, in the past."

"Would you just be straight with me? What are you talking about?"

"Lady, I don't want to be rude, or disrespectful, but your husband is in deep, deep shit."

"Tell me!"

The man looked around then said, "He killed a dude who was part of the Rotan gang. You've heard of them, right?"

"Yes, of course I've heard of them. But, my husband killed a man? No way! He, he couldn't have!"

"That's the word on the street. Now the leader of the Rotans is taking him for everything he has."

"And more than everything he has," she added.

"What? That's not possible, they haven't taken any body parts, yet."

"No, but he took out bank loans to get money, he drained our account, he, apparently, sold everything we had in our house, except my clothes. And I mean everything! Literally, everything!"

"Holy shit! I had no idea. Look, that is what I know. What happens next, well, that's up to that Rotan guy. It's usually not good."

"Do the police know any of this?"

"Of course not."

"Well, I'm going to the police, we'll find him and that Rotan guy and get to the bottom of this!"

"I wouldn't recommend that."

"Just try to stop me!" She shouted back as she stormed off, this time not for her car but for the nearest police station.

He shouted back at her, "They probably won't help you, not with those Rotan guys."

She just ignored that last bit and left him behind. At the police station she spoke with the captain and explained the situation, everything she had learned, and the situation with their money.

The captain said he would put some people on it and let her know what they find out.

That night again, she slept outside under the rose tree. Even with all the upheaval in her life, sleeping in the garden was the best thing for her - she was getting the best sleep of her life out there. But she knew it couldn't last.

He still hadn't returned.

The next day, after work, she did some shopping - a bed, living room furniture, kitchen stuff. She had to get some semblance of a normal life back in order. And in doing so maxed out her credit card, but what choice did she have?

With the house now looking as it should again, and life returning to something that was actually better than the previous normal, she was beginning to feel a little better. But the problem of her husband was on her mind, always. Her only respite from that was her time in the garden.

She contacted the police captain almost every day, asking for updates. He kept telling her the same thing, nothing new yet, we'll let you know when we have some new information.

One week, two weeks, three weeks. Still no husband and the same response from the captain. Something has to come of it, what's the hold up? She thought maybe she should go to a different police station and file the same report.

"Look, sir, you're not giving me anything. I'm going to file a report at a different station, with a different captain, and see if they can do anything."

"That won't do you any good. The report is in the system so all the stations in the precinct have it. I told you we're working on the case. These things take time. You just need to be patient."

"Patient? I've been patient for three weeks! I'm losing my patience, sir."

"I understand. Just, please, bear with us. This is turning into a bigger investigation than we expected. I can't give you any details. I'll let you know what I can, when I can. Okay?"

"Hmm, okay." She got up and left for home.

Another week passed and the captain called her, "Can you come to the station today? I need to talk to you."

The flood of information hit her like a tsunami. She couldn't move in her chair she was so stunned. Words were nowhere to be found. She stared into the space between herself and the captain. He stopped, looked at her for a moment, and said, "I'm so sorry to have to give you such news. I'll give you a minute to collect your thoughts." He walked out of the office and quietly closed the door behind him. She didn't move, not even a blink of her eyes, now with tears emerging from them.

What? What did you say? Um, okay. Sure. How can such a thing happen? In our lives? He wasn't that kind of man when I met him. Not for all the years we've been married. How? I don't understand. It doesn't make sense.

Her mind was flooded with the same questions and responses, over and over again. She wanted to be sitting under her rose tree, not in this police station, not in the captain's office. Not hearing the story he told her. It can't be true. Can it?

He had been acting strangely the past 4 or 5 years, but it came about slowly. He never said anything about it to her, he kept his life to himself and did a bang-up job controlling hers at the same time.

She stood up on wobbly legs, turned towards the door, took a step, and the door opened.

"Oh, just a minute more, if you don't mind," said the captain.

She sat back down, gladly.

"We found an account, a bank account. He had opened it about year ago, do you know about it?"

She shook her head side to side while staring at the floor.

"It was opened in your name, with his as the secondary. Here's the account info." He handed her a piece of paper, she didn't look at it. She put it in her purse, another day, maybe, not today.

She managed to get out a few words, "May I leave now?"

"Yes. Please, if you need someone to talk to, here's the name and number of someone who can help you."

She slowly stood up, numb from head to toe, turned, and walked out of the office. The other officers were looking at her and whispering as she walked through the station to the front door, but she didn't notice any of that. Her mind was reeling, she couldn't believe it still, that it was true, that he was now gone, forever.

Outside the station she walked to her car, slowly, not paying attention to anyone else on the sidewalk. She bumped into a woman, said 'scuse me, and continued onwards. He was gone. Forever. She was beginning to realize the depth of it.

At home she put her purse on the table, took off her shoes and socks, changed into some comfy clothes, and went out to her rose tree. With a smile slowly forming she fell asleep.

A few days later she finally looked at the paper the captain had given her. The bank account was indeed in her name. She contacted the bank to confirm that and arrange to talk to someone about the account. The account had exactly the amount of money needed to repay the loans he had taken, to replace the money he had taken, and replace everything from the house he had taken. It was the exact amount. How could he have known the exact amount? She wondered.

Well, that's not important. She used the money to take care of all those debts and was feeling much better about her situation. But it was so very strange. There's no way he could've known what the exact amount would be, not when he opened the account a year before. It just makes no sense.

She was doing some cleaning in the garden, wondering about all those things, when a butterfly landed on her hand. It was a beautiful black and yellow Swallowtail. Her thoughts changed to focus on the butterfly. She watched it, its wings slowing rising and lowering, it was looking at her, eye to eye. "What are you doing Ms. Swallowtail?" she asked. It bumped its head up and down a couple times. She slowly stood up, walked over to the rose tree, and sat down underneath it. The butterfly stayed with her and continued to look at her.

She thought she could feel the love of nature coming from that butterfly, from the rose tree, from the many flowers around her, the bees buzzing around, the hummingbirds flicking around from flower to flower in the tree at the edge of the garden. She was sure she could feel the love pouring into her heart. Then she fell asleep.

When she woke up she was surrounded by garden, as far as she could see, a garden as big as the whole world. Flowers of every imaginable color and scent.

She was going to be fine.

Me on the old Muelle (dock)

Chip Wiegand

Contact me: Chip Wiegand

I teach english as a foreign language in Colombia. I'm from Kennewick, Washington, USA. In my previous life, as I call it, I was an IT guy, systems administrator, computer tech, as well as a shipping/receiving guy and also worked as a merchandising guy for a year for a camping/RV accessories store.


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