The Mahon Flower
Paul Woodson clocked out of work that day vowing never to return. The woodmill had been in Monson since the turn of the century and rumor had it Havenwood wasn't planning an another year.
"This is it. I'm never coming back." He smiled at a fellow coworker as she slowly made her way up the corridor's stairway. Nancy cantered upward and waved goodbye with the back of her wrist carefully assure not to release soot in her long blond curls. Sweetness alluded her bounciness. She brushed the dust clean from her brow keeping the dusty Kinko rubber glove's fingertips especially free from her thickly painted jet black eyebrows. She tugged on her white hairnet, refastening it around her ears. Snapping it secure she wiggled the top of her head, boggling and balancing, like she always did before entering the machine room and facing a long night at the mill.
Paul saw her before leaving. She was tired and yawned at him. Paul belted out as loud as he could. He wanted the world to know his good news. Filling his lungs with air til he could no more. Tightening his every pore. His manly voice rose reveling over the echo of the Trans Tech's deep tick and hiss.
Hollering he tightening up and held his sinewy gut. He was now screaming with full force and ravenous vigor, "NEVER COMING BACK. YOUR HEAR."
Stopping in her tracks Nancy childishly spun. Gave him a strict kindling glance.
"Hm." She said.
Paul eyes were on fire, "I MEAN IT THIS TIME." As the bombinate continued in the next room, Paul removed his earplugs, jumbled them in his hands like a pair of dice. Then, squeezed until the memory foam became hard as the bones in his fingers, and the tips pulsated, tingling with electricity. He thumped the foam plugs into the passing corrugated fiberboard container and waved his hands at the mill. Then, to her. Then to the sky, like hardworking madman.
"This place has got to go. . ."
She stopped with her hands on her hips criticizing his rebellion and again,
Slowly grumbling from the back of his throat and in defense he smiled in her direction. Then, continued to conclude his farewell,
"Aaaaww-yah. Anothaaah' night."
Paul was now in the corridor as the door swung open from outside. The exit sign above. The sound of crackling rain continued to sip inside and the pattering echoed, followed by sharp stomping. Nancy was now near the top of stairs.
The door leading out flung wide and wind rushed in. Paul looked out.
A lady was brushing the sides of her work boots that read Carolina: Built For Work. She continued to brush and kick the edge, as if she was attempting soft shoe where the concrete dropped down and the stair to the entryway began. Shedding the clumped mud and pasting smears from her angled boot heel was quite the task. The muddy ooze strained away and tar streaks stained now, decorating the shallow ledge edging the patio, where the wood skids where stacked. It was all a ritualistic marking, she always repeated during the mud season.
The new arriving worker looked to Paul and then back to her greasy steal toe boot. Paul couldn't tell who it was and then the door vacuumed shut. The slam echoed and filled the corridor. He turned toward the staircase and caught Nancy standing there chin up, genially lingering alone. Still with hands wiping at her hips she started to speak. Looking at Paul facing the exit and still criticizing, she shook her head instead. And then he opened up and shook the daze of the night off and realized she was checking him out,
"Hey there, Nancy. Rainin' again?" He said looking away from her this time.
Nancy brushed off countless flyspecks of sawdust from her pink fuzzy sweater. She had been waiting to do that all night as well as sucking down a Camel Gold on her ten minute cigarette break. She brushed away, until the dust was cleared. She made sure not one speck was allowed on her most treasured winter garment. It was a gift from last year. A sweater given to her by her grandmother a few Christmases ago. The one with the cartoon porcupine smiling pearly whites displayed on the front, the one she always wore at the end of the workweek, the one she took pride in. She never understood why she valued such thrown together piece of wool, as much as her silly sweater given to her by Nana Mema.
"Stay sharp Paul."
She kept flicking pieces of sawdust away. It was as if she was trying to look good for Paul before he forever left.
"I don't know why I wear this thing to work." She kept obsessing over it.
The one sweater no one else came close to wearing on a Thursday. The one sweater not made in Taiwan or China. The one sweater that really made her feel warm and cozy inside. It was the pink fuzzy sweater with a cartoon porcupine with its thumb proudly gesturing a happy frame of mind. The pink fuzzy sweater with the cartoon animal and manufactured in her home state. Wool and all.
"You leaving, Paul."
She proudly pointed to her billowy sweater and Paul read the large bubbly words next to the prickly face of the porcupine: STAY SHARP. Made in Maine. And under the cartoonish varmint and in the center of the shirt Paul noticed a small speck of sawdust that still hung on for it's dear life. There it remained directly at the tip of the colorful paw, hanging above the upward jutting furry thumb.
"Nice shirt. I like the porcupine." He had seen in a thousand times. This time he wanted to make her happy.
"You missed a spot."
She looked down and noticed the speck. Her eyes grew wide and she smiled and thumped the wooden particulate away. A stream of air current from the door lifted and carried it into the cool oblivion.
Paul squinted his eyes at her and then gave her a stern nod.
He wasn't coming back. He really wasn't this time.
She smiled warmly as if she knew. She was almost certain.
"You gonna just stand there, Paul." She said smiling.
Paul matched her smile with an energetic thumps up. Down low at the hips, double thumbed, like Henry Winkler. And she pointed to her shirt smiling smarter than before. And then she gave back another jolting thumps up, matching his. Both of them now with their thumps outward, jutting heavenly with childish charm like two happy leather coatless Fonzies, stuck in Havenwood's stairway's corridor under the Exit sign. Nothing but the cold awaiting outside. Paul stood there blankly before the rain.
He stayed in the corridor for long, long time. Now, readying his breath, right before joining the incoming downpour. But he just couldn't leave the place yet. Not yet.
"When did it start raining all of sudden?"
As she stepped stair by stair upward toward the machine room on the second floor, she answered back arching an eyebrow. Still probing him.
"Is it raining?"
Her voice was always magnetic and drew Paul's focus.
Paul noticed she had dolled herself up this night. She had added triangular pen drawn eyebrows and he thought she must of spent time with this new look. Hours before the mirror. Paul liked the touch, even made her a bit sexier. He pondered a second over why she had changed. He was wondering who she was trying to impress. But he didn't dare ask if she was single.
He still behaved as if Sue was somewhere nearby.
He looked away again, and erased any racy thoughts, after all, he still acted like a good husband. At least at the mill.
"Its been raining all night." Paul added.
The wind opened the door again and no one was there. Nothing but the rain beating the gravel parking lot. A chill arose over him.
Nancy twisted around almost guarding her torso, her neck now stiff and her body turned strict and solid toward him, long and graceful, like a ballet dancer, and she kept her charm and grin. She leaned over and looked at the open door. No one entered. Just the wind.
She grabbed the railing and composed herself. She was still in shape for a grown lady and she worked hard every night. As hard as any of them. Paul knew this and respected her efforts.
"What time did ya get her?"
"Came in early today." She told him still standing on the same stair. Still standing firm and with strength.
"You too, Paul."
Then she set in motion.
While dusting the long railing with her palm switching to the back of her hand, she planted her feet and stretched even more. Dust particulates trailed in the air, falling behind her like tiny tan confetti. She smiled back at Paul and did her best to keep her genuine grin, the one she always wore, the one she had sculpted like a happy mask for over ten years now. The same teething grin. The one she got around with. And biting her lip she kept it always. Especially when she needed it.
The smile was familiar to Paul. An innocence was still there. Something uncorrupt. Something pure. Heartfelt. A true beauty.
He heard she was raised in the city, but she always acted country at the mill.
Her smile could get stuck in any man's mind. And to Paul, it was a familiar smile. A smile that reminded him of home. A smile close to the heart. At least to Paul it was. The same smile she gave him before and still wore night to night. The smile burning in his memories when he would think of Sue at home. The same smile he took with him driving to the next town. The same smile he could never touch. And the same smile he will never take home with him. It was that same smile, when he told her that Sue had died and he asked for a hug and tears flowed from their eyes. It was the same smile he needed every night. The smile he came to work to see. And the smile he left with tonight.
Another worker entered the corridor and passed through. As she vanished, a rainy mist followed. The stormy winds whooshed in and then vamoosed. The machine room's heavy steal door finally fell shut and solid and so did Nancy.
She was tuning to the racket of the machines. She entered a fixated state. Her eyes locked onto the spinning wheels of the conveyor. Her eyes now focused and readied. Her state now aware. Everything seem to fall into place. She fell into her slave robotic seriousness. The door snapped into place, clicked and sealed. And her hands began to move.
Paul was now alone in the corridor with it's metallic echo. Nancy, lost in work. Paul stood there as the rain fell.
Nancy stood by the Trans Tech and it's long conveyor.
Paul got ready to run.
Both preparing. One for the night and one for freedom.
Nancy knew he was leaving. Paul was about to step into a new life. And at the age of sixty.
The moon hung there behind the storm clouds.
Time did not pass for a few moment. But her hands moved. Nancy hands moved. The conveyor began to rumble and her hands gripped the air. She shook them and prepared for work. Her hands soon would activate and mechanically process and sort and pack. All for the product. And for the mill's wishes. And for the profit of the big wigs that had never once shook those hands.
The door clanked and sealed. The echo filling every particle in the corridor. Paul thought for once she wanted to be human with him. But work drew her away from the world and time wouldn't allow that when on the clock. The rain called him but he stood in the corridor.
Paul tilted his Basspro ball cap back, the one with the fishing hook fastened on the rim, and cracked the exit door allowing the pine and fresh rainwater fill his nostrils.
He talked to the rain in an attempt to charm it. To cool it down. But the rain did not cease. It was loud and something tingled as the cool air brushed over his skin.
Silently lightning wildly squiggled before a thick patch of dark rainclouds and the wind followed with full force commanding his full attention.
After wiping the dust on his blue jeans he gave a familiar nod to the heavens like he always did when an electrical storm was out. Another bolt crashed over the thick black clouds and another followed that one and another. It was as if the storm was speaking to him. Perhaps trying to warn him. A calmness arrived within.
Then another bolt. And a thick raincloud lit up exposing a wicked face within the hovering anvil cloud. He could see a nose and eyes piercing in the form of pure electricity. He smiled evenly at the wickedness of it. It smiled back at him. It was an evil smile.
Then, a denser sheet of rain fell harder.
A murky cloud slowly crawled before the moon blotching it out leaving a deep silvery glow.
More rain pelted.
Paul was readying to run out into the downpour and then he thought of Nancy gracefully leaving the corridor and entering the machine room which held him many nights. She smiled with her eyes too. He thought. Strong and piercing as she continued onward, holding her head up queenly high, like she always did.
He wanted to go back in and tell her how he felt. He wanted to give her his phone number or as if she wanted to meet up. But he couldn't. Sue might see them together.
He could see Nancy's deep blues clearly now. Clear as crystal. As if she was face to face with him. She pushed the workroom door open and an affray of wrangling, grinding, and hissing writhed free. There was Nancy with her long blond straight hair and shocking blue eyes.
Her breath now freely echoed in the corridor. But she was not there. He remained still and the rain continued.
The more still he was, the more the mill spoke.
Inside a stentorian of steep banging and high pitch, pinching tings, awaiting. A rush of air followed by another and another.
The door slowly began to open again and then reclose. No one was there on the other side.
"Goodbye." He whispered.
As the door swung back again echoing into the corridor, so did the sounds of the nightshift inside the mill.
Paul valued this moment. The moments before passing under the exit sign and into the parking lot. The end of a shift was his favorite moment within a day. But tonight was the champion of those tiny victories before leaving.
"Its time to go" He said to the place he vowed never to return.
Paul closed his eyes and pictured the entire mill and it's thousands of motions. As rain droplets fell on his boots, he stepped forward and planted his feet.
A mechanical and electric cricket cry hypnotically sung out to remind him. Then, a loud deep whistle roared.
Boxes slid across smooth, shiny, silvery concrete floors followed by young muscled workers also sliding between the white tape, lined for the rolling carts.
Paul could see the night crew working. Sometimes playful.
The young workers slid as if on ice. And strangely other younger workers, childishly followed behind rolling carts, sliding there oil resistant soles behind them. They didn't always do this but when they did, they smiled and enjoyed their youthful energy.
Another young worker ran and slid across with arms stretched out like a giant tree.
Once Paul had to. When he was younger. But now he was old. Paul smiled and remembered the glory days. He had tried it once or twice as well, when younger. Sliding across the floor was something you never did before the super. Sometimes they held contest to see he could slide the furthest.
The place reflected the nature outside and the changing of the season. Even the floor, at times, mildly reflected an ice covered pond.
Now, he was in the corridor. Eyes still shut. Picturing himself skidding on the smooth floor in the machine room. A young man full of vigor.
He opened his eyes to a thunderous clap.
"Coming home Sue."
He closed them again and waited. More rain.
For now, around him in the stale air, steel clopping, like muted cymbals, and cutting and clamping, the mill still thrived. Now and then perfectly timed squeaks streaked from tennis shoes or a thwack from steel-toe boots sounded. He kept his eyes closed listening to it all, replaying, as the rain filled the parking lot full of long miniature ravines and stringy tiny rivers.
Weighing the risk of never returning, he kept his eyes shut and the scene playing strong. It was as if the mill was his only connection. And he was prepping to cut it free.
And all of this, human or machine weaving together, like a mad tango continuing the dance of the late night. In him, in his tendons and bones and aching muscles, the grit of the late night. He was beat. His heart ached. And sometimes in the same pulse his memories of Sue returned. Her soft blue eyes. Softer than Nancy.
The rain pattered and still he stood there. Into unblemished early morn, pumped through his veins and into his head it sang. The mill did not let up.
Neither did the storm ahead. Now, Paul stood trapped in the corridor awaiting the hard rain. Awaiting a time to make the mad dash and leave forever.
"For the love of God." As another sheet of rain released.
The upstairs door to the machine room opened again.
The wood mill scraping sighs spilled in from behind the door; the long SISSSWHOOOSH, SISSSWHOOSH whispered nearly omnisciently. He watched another worker come or go. The mill swallowing another and Paul just stood like a statue.
The door clicked open. Nancy stood there looking down at him strangely. There she was again. Returning into the hall to retrieve her plastic dangling pink earplugs.
"I'M NOT KIDDIN."
Before she vanished into the late night commitment that awaited her on the other side of the thick concrete walls, she hollered back with conviction, "I'VE BEEN SAYIN THAT FOR YEARS, PAUL." Nancy turned. Passed under red glowing No Exit Sign and vanished through the heavy door once more and let the echoing storm fall shut behind her. The sound muffled now and the SISSSWOOOOSH drowned out and mutated into hushed sizzling and rustic thumping. Thmp. Sssst. Thmp. Sssst. Thmp. Ssst. The rain still pattered and the noise kept thumping. It rarely let up.
A mechanical engine was careering inside. And it ran til morning. Day and night. Continuously.
Havenwood products was alive now for nearly a hundred years. Alive and kicking. And all around her the tall pines and the Piscataquis cutting through.
Paul closed his eyes and pictured the place again. It wouldn't let him go.
A string of 9/7th inch thick ribbons of Birchwood reeled inward, slurping into a cutting blade. Wood transformed into delicate sticks and a gob of wrapped ivory, lightly translucent paper glued together by an electric steel blade and blotches of hot glue leaked down the Trans Tech sign.
Wooden ice cream spoons rumbled down an peptic, perforating section of the conveyor. A small steel stamp guillotined and perforated the papery coverings. A piercing hole or holes punched into it's flimsy papery packaging. An endless line of wooden spoons rode down the conveyor.
Down long halls of white concrete, in the above room, behind rolling doors, separated by steel and thickness, lay countless cutout logs that resembled small round bar tables. Further down where stacks of logs, on rolling carts, that had been freshly shaved with no bark. These logs were known to crash down on men's feet, sometimes breaking them. Large and heavy logs weighing as much as man.
Every room had an department. Paul knew everyone of them. From the sorter and packers and the routers, to the upstairs lathe rooms to the choppers and to the debarker saws, down to the chippers. He had worked them all. Nearly every machine. At least once. He was lucky to never meet the soot of the boiler room, but listened to watchman talk about in the small break room.
Thmp. Sssst. Thmp. Sssst. And then the sound he was used to floated out the open door. The sound a bottle rocket makes, just before it would take flight. Ssssssst. And then followed by a thump and then another cricket cry. Ssst. Thump. Air releasing from air compression. A pneumatic hose curled. Powering machinery hissed.
A electronic cricket cry. Ssst. Thump. Sounds like crickets crying. Paul remembered it with his eyes closed. It was deafening. It repeat itself every night without disturbance. And the ticking and plangent clicking of the choppers. Orally perfected like a favorite drumbeat. Automatically. All of it. Deafening.
Then, another lady worker hunched over an aqua blue conveyor belt, speedily ado, as endless amounts of wrapped wooden sticks floated by and another worker rearranged a pile of boxes and another pushing a long broom of shredded damp slithering chunks of thinly cut birch shavings. At times they look like wet brown goose feathers meshed up with mood.
And like the grinding and hissing seeping from the concrete walls, every worker inhaled and exhaled and moved into their structured assembly, all in a working unit, inside protective from the downpour but not from the rigors and taxing labor. A grappling chorography remained in full force and backs ached and sides split and heads throbbed. All of it. Planned. Repeating. Automatically. Paid. Spent. Deafening.
She passed bucket and bin of sliced and trimmed Birchwood and it always flowed like water here. The sticks jumbled and piled like waters does in a roaring stream. Rough waters through jagged rock. Always flowing and changing form.
She whispered this time to herself,
"I've been saying that for years." Out of sight now, she continued and eyed the red glowing sign, and once again began her perambulatory ritual. She had clocked in and there was no turning back.
Another worker vanished up the stairway corridor splitting the hair of the time clock. The door swung open and breezily began to fall shut again. Paul yelled louder so she could hear.
"WELL, I MAY GIVE EM' ONE MORE NIGHT." Paul was lying to her this time. He knew he was gone. Thirty eight years. He had been working there thirty eight long years. Off and on as a kid, ever since graduating from Piscataquis High. It may be time to let her go. Sooner or later the time would come.
Paul's father had work there too. And his father before that. All hard workers and believers that honest work is the only way to a successful life.
"This is it." He whispered under his breath looking up at the red glowing Exit sign, as he pushed the backdoor open yet again and was welcomingly sprayed with a splotchy mist from hard rainwater and the darkly shadows before sun up.
The moon was in a deep pale crescent and pretty to look at. The raindrops like silver silt pried before it's cunning ivory smile. Paul knew he have to run to the pickup.
The mill's parking lot was filled with tiny rivers freshly carved from that night's rain. Everything was drenched and Paul just stood there. In the doorway, he remained fixed, gazing at the tiny drops pelting in the countless puddles ahead. Standing and lifting his heel, like a racing horse bridled right before the gates are lifted. A lightning bolt shattered in the under the leathery blackened clouds summoning a lupine face in the night. That was the loud siren blare.
And Paul was off.
Now he was in the thunderstorm. Into the wild of this night's storm. The curt walk developed into a mean gallop and then to a jumbling slow run until he reached his old Ford pickup, gasping. Now, grasping for his keys another bolt forked overhead.
A 1965 red Ford F-100 with custom made flareside and silver panel siding met his hands.
"I hope, this is it." He spoke into the thrashing wind. Slicing raindrops continued pattering and beating the ground. Paul skipped over a small crater that the rain had chewed out of the gravel parking lot. The rainstorm wasn't letting up tonight and word around the mill claimed it was going to get worse.
Forty mile an hour winds tonight. He remembered a lady saying near the time cards.
By the time he reached the old Ford he was drenched.
He fumbled with his keys. Straightened them level and swiftly fixed into the door's keyhole.
"Man." Thunder clapped over the darkly clouds and thick drops of rainwater were slowly oozing on the lenses of his safety glasses.
Nightshift usually lets out right before dawn. Tonight he had an extra hour.
He wiped the rain off his brow, sat his lunchbox on the passenger floorboard, and leaned back in the bucket seat, covered in a fitted leather, wiggled a bit, and reached into his front pocket unsheathing his cell phone, made sure it was off and tossed it in the glove box softly slamming it shut.
"I'll probably end up missing all this." He started the ignition and turned the volume up.
The Willie Nelson CD he had left in the day before was still playing On The Road Again.
"If lady luck shows her face tonight, then so long Mouseheads."
He was breaking a family tradition that had gone back since 1910. His father's father and the father before that father, all must of worked til the last days. This was a home of his grandfather's way of life.
His plans were simple. If they worked out, they'd be simple. He'd go to Irving gas station across the bridge in town, pick up his lucky scratch off, go home, crack open a New Castle and scratch away. If all the numbers were in his favor, he'd pack his bags, grab Clover, his black lab and husky mix, and head off into the sunset. Actually he was planning on leaving in the morning, but nevertheless, he was going to go and the Elliotsville road was his path of choice.
First, he stopped at Irvings. The same fun lady with the big healthy ear to ear smile and well fed figure, was there. Shirley, the lady with the never ending coffee makers. She was nothing but giggles and good charm and fun to be around. There she was replacing the filter on the coffee maker, as he walked in. She wore the same blue vest, with tan slacks and rubbery attitude.
He went over to the glass refrigerators and grabbed a bottled cappuccino shake entitled Harmony Organic and passed the old lady smiling and then picked up a homemade brownie with walnuts, that was pre-wrapped on the counters in a earthy tan wicker basket near the registers.
She walked around to meet him with perfect timing, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Same ticket tonight, Paul."
"Same one as I always get, Shirley."
Shirley smiled and slid the Magic Eight ball ticket over to him.
"Raining hard out tonight."
"More than last night." Paul said gathering his drink and ticket and beginning to head out.
"You were being sarcastic. Huh, Shirley."
Yep. Sure was." She said as a gush of rain showered against the bay window behind her. "See ya tomorrow."
"Yeah. Tomorrow." And he was off again.
Paul had to slow down several times and kept his eyes wide the entire trip home.
As he headed down the road, he came across what looked like wet sawdust mixed with green paint. Trees had been pushed over by the strong winds and the mess just kept getting messier mile after mile.
He took the same way home, Elliotsville road, which was known to climb, dip and wind and after every corner more and more foliage ended up before his path. He swerved a few times and kept repeating in his head, We get there soon enough.
There were leaves and broken tree limbs and the rain picked up and the wind rumbled the side view mirrors.
Then, his headlamps illuminated a green mailbox, with the red flag up. He had left mail for Charley, the mailman, to pick up some final bills he had paid off. Each envelop was licked and stickered with forever stamps with a ringing Liberty Bell or The Statue of Liberty's face.
He was getting everything taken care of for the move.
Paul had decided on the getaway for about a year now, and rather or not that ticket was a winner, he was planning to get gone by dawn. He wanted to get as far away from this place and start over.
"Just cause I'm sixty doesn't mean I can't start over." At times Paul felt much younger.
He drove passed the rock marker and tombstone and kissed his thumb and made the sign of the cross.
"God Bless you Sue. My dearest love."
He said to the little rock garden and in the center surrounded by red, blue, purple, tan and red pebbles and gray marble Sue's humble deep silvery tombstone. The marble headstone and golden plaque at it's foundation read, "A beloved Wife. Sue Ann Woodson. Died November 3rd, 2009.
Rainwater, had filled the front lawn to the two story cottage. The rock garden had a few rocks roll lose and the largest, one about the size of a beach ball, was pushed by the rainwater, toward the front steps to the porch swing. The front patio light, that was set to timer to turn on at 4:10 am was shinning bright.
The front porch swing swung lonely as the rain pelted down and the wind wrestled in the air. Leaves danced upward as the lightning pierced the sky and strobes sparked the horizon over the endless acres of pine.
Paul was inside in no time flat and Clover met him wagging his tail and salivating like he always did every time at this early time of morning. He turned the front porch light off and stared at the darkness outside and listened to the patter of rainfall. Then, Clover began exasperating and Paul broke out of his short trance.
"Get ready to go on a big journey, Clover." Paul removed his long yellow raincoat, pet Clover's head and swung open the cupboard door and retrieved a dog biscuit and tossed one from his hip. Clover lurched forward with his jaws wide and in one lurching gulp the bowtie tan dog treat vanished.
"Godbless ya Clover. Now for my treat. Then we play Magic Eight Ball."
Paul opened the refrigerator, sat aside the cappuccino shake on the shelf under the butter compartment, to let chill for tomorrow's breakfast and grabbed a great big frosted German glass beer mug, with Moose antlers on it. He had been chilling it since the night before. Nearly a full day had passed and the glass was completely frosted with condensation and ready for beer. He cracked the top of his New Castle and filled the mug full and plopped down on the recliner with his Maine State Lottery scratch off ticket.
He took out his trusty lucky penny which had been carefully placed on the end table. The same table he kept Sue's photo on. The one of both of them standing on the beach with straw hats and holding two Heinikans and Clover, just a pup being cradled by Sue and a hint of orange sun cracking over a pink and blue horizon far behind them white and blue cutting sea. Flickering from the side of the photo, was the bonfire where they roasted what Paul called Sausage kabobs. His favorite with pineapple, green peppers and onions.
"Make me lucky tonight, Abe." He stared at Lincoln's profile imprinted on the front side of the copper penny and then twirled the dead president's head around using his thumb, and index and middle finger and then took a deep breath and without hesitation relentlessly began scratching.
On magic 8 ball you can win up to 10 times. The odds are noted on the back as 1:4.08. There are ten rows with Your Numbers at the left and the prize at the right hand side. The winning numbers are located above the rows. In the lower left hand side of the ticket is an upside down black triangle which may or may not reveal a large 2x, or a "yes". The 2x indicates double the prize winnings and a revealed "yes" states you may be the lucky winner of all 10 prizes.
That early morn, just before sunrise Paul began scratching his ticket.
"Come on Yes. Come on Yes." The triangle was scratched clean and it read No Bonus. There was no 2x and no yes. Paul slurped down the New Castle and retrieved another from the refrigerator door. He had a whole case chilling.
He continued scratching anyways and low and behold three $100 symbols appeared and next to them the numbers four and six. That meant if he scratched off the winning numbers at the top and a four or six was discovered behind the silvery gunk, then he could walk away with a cold hard three hundred in cash.
And low and behold a four was awaiting behind the scratch off section next to the capital letters WINNING NUMBERS. Paul smiled and took a sip from his New Castle. He kept scratching and there it was, in bold black letters, a 6. He couldn't believe it but it was true. As plain as day, or in this case the rising run, which was now arriving due to the faint blue glowing behind the laced curtains, a 6.
He had won a three hundred dollars. If the world could see him now. And if time could stop, it just did, for a little bit anyhow, or at least for Paul's victory dance. He cracked open another New Castle and held it high. "Wooooooo whoooooo." Paul yelled wildly. "WE WON." Clovers lifted off his dog bed, barked and ran around in tight circles. "WE ARE WINNERS CLOVERS." The beer sloshed in Clover's belly.
Paul's eyes focused on the winning numbers and a strange tranquility filled him. His yell tightened into an intense focused calm grumble. "You old mutt, look at that, will ya." Paul catapulted off the recliner and planted his feet and dipped down like a Rockstar about to strike a power chord. Clovers was now watching his every move.
Paul raised the ticket to the ceiling and leaned back. The ol' dog reared up like a stallion kicking his paws straight up in the air. Paul waved the ticket before Clover and doggishly grinned. He hung his happy tongue out at his pet. Clover hung his tongue out too. They begin panting in unison for a half second playing off one another.
Paul was on fire. He slammed his New Castle down with fierce might, and it foamed and sizzled over onto the floor and Clover began to lick it up. His tail oscillating like a violinist's bow sawing at the strings during the crescendo in a maniacal masterful symphonic build by Bach. He had never seen Clovers so happy. "Thank God, its about time we won something." Paul cheered and Clovers rubbed his jaw sloppily up against him. Paul's wiped Clovers slobber off his sawdust covered Wrangler jeans leaving specks of bubbly salivation on him and on the floor. Clovers tail began to wave in the opposite direction now, and more wildly and out of control. As Paul danced around kicking his knees up and waving his pointy finger at the heavens, Clover's tail remained steadily sloppy, sawing back in forth and back and forth in drunken squiggles. They danced together in victory.
Paul was drawn to Clover's happy tail. It's long black furry stem kept on waving and vibrating and Clover continued lapping more beer off the floor and heading back to Paul for more dancing. Their hearts pounding the liquor pumped through their veins. And after more tongue filled laps of beer the tail began to saw slower and their dancing, out of breath and labored. Paul was getting tipsy and so was Clover. He decided to give it a rest and took a load off and sat down on the stairs that lead up to the front vestibule.
The tail swatted up against Paul's gut and he eased under the lintel of the oak entrance and rested on the sill. Clover returned to the puddle of beer and slopped more up. His tail swaggered and began making dizzying figure eights. Now it was wagging more like a fiddler than a violinist.
"Calm down old boy. Save yer energy for the trip. All that beeyah makin' ya sick." Clover popped his head up with full ears and then returned to his golden foamy puddle of heaven.
It was time to drive down to report his winnings to Shirley.
"Slow down boy."
Paul hurried into the shower and scrubbed down with his favorite sea sponge and all natural Honey soap he picked up at Joe's Feed store. Sue used that type of soap and part of him was saddened thinking about her. She was his most valuable treasure. He loved nothing more than old Sue.
She died of cancer just two years ago.
Almost every other night he could still hear her call out to him. Usually he'd awaken to hear her voice around three am. He noticed he'd awake around this hour. One time is was at three thirty three. And then another night he awoke and it was three thirty three in the morning. Something odd about the number three.
He'd wake up in a cold sweat hollering her name, "Sue. Sue. Sue, is that you?" And the alarm clock read: 3:33 am.
"Hm." And Paul went back to bed. And another night the same thing and this went on night after night for months and he never told anyone. Why 3 am. Why 3:33 AM?."
"God why does come to me? Why at that hour of this night. What is she trying to tell me my Lord?"
He heard mysterious stories about the number three. Some good and some bad. Some told Paul the number is like a lucky charm and others viewed it as holy and others as wicked and some associated it to humor.
Paul knew the following about the number three: third time is a charm. The three wise men or the father and the son and the holy ghost or three witches in Shakespeare's Scottish Play and there was the three stooges and three blind mice. There were thousands of meaning tied to the number there. The mysteries of the triangle and the Bermuda and on and on and on.
Three meant many things and Sue must have been telling him something by coming to him at 3:33 in the morning.
Paul didn't know what to think.
It was an odd hour of hearing Sue's ghostly voice.
Paaaauuuuul. The whisper would come from the back window and Paul would rise straight up panting and old Clovers pawing at the curtains with his ears pointed straight up. Paaaauuuul. And the curtain ruffled three times as if the wind had picked up outside in three odd intervals.
Paul moved Clover aside and looked through the curtains. There was nothing but blackness outside.
Paul stared at the alarm clock. 3:33 am.
"Am I hearing this?" He whispered at Clover. Clover sat there beside him and remained as still as stone. Both fixed on the shadowy night passing behind the ruffling curtain that led to the darkness outside.
No one would answer back. Not a sound, besides the echo of her whisper.
Clover sat on his feet and then looked him over.
One night Paul awoke to her voice and Clover was staring out the back bedroom window like always, as if she was peering in. He could feel her. As if she was touching him.
It was a cold November evening.
Paul got up and crept over and looked out and there was nothing but a thick fog floating among the silvery pale moonlight trailing over the tips of the shadowy and wicker broom ends that tipped the pines. He checked the entire cottage. Every corner. Behind every door. In every closet. Under every bed and even in the utility room. Even sometimes made his way up into the attic just to see if she was in the house or had left a clue of her worldly existence. Nothing. She had left nothing. Sue was gone. Gone forever and she was never coming back, no matter how many dreams or nightmares he had. No matter his obsessions with the number three or his prayers to the almighty.
Nothing was bringing her back. But he'd still looked for her anyways. Mostly out of habit.
Only the echoes of her whisper remained and the strange visits by the wind.
Paul was finished up before the steaming bathroom mirror. And he decided to part his hair perfectly. He dried off with his favorite fluffy towel and notice the old cowlick was still present and growing strong. It was even worse when he used the blow dryer. He evened it out and licked his palm a few times like some old cat and tried parting with his hands a few times. And then with the comb and then with a wet comb. And it still didn't get the Alfaalfa style from the Rascals and he hummed the old black white tv theme song and then threw in some Honey Bee hair gel that Sue used to buy. He meshed it down flat and then let out a serious grin exposing his pearly whites.
A rustling of leaves grabbed his attention and he realized the bathroom window was barely cracked. Sometimes he left it open in the morning to let the towel dry. Sue always told him, "You don't have to wash the towels after every time you use them, Paul, dear. You come out of the shower clean and you dry off clean. Just hang em up by the window. I'll leave it open. Let the good old wind blow in and dry em clean."
A few leaves whirled before the window and off into the pines. Paul peered over as her voice echoed off and gave a long look at the laced curtains Sue had put up years ago. Still the curtains hung, and still they looked pretty. Pale and soft, just like Sue's skin.
He walked over to touch what Sue had once did for him. And the wind hissed and yanked the curtains backward and vacuumed them against the window's screen. The lace flattened taut as the strong passing gale continued steadily exhaling the room's air. The wind continued to tug at the curtains and they stuck solid like a second skin.
He walked over and closed the window.
The curtains fell back into place.
If was there with him again, she was gone now.
Late September had arrived. And so did the chilly early morning breezes. The coldest time was right before dawn and that was when Paul always got off from the work. Usually just around four AM. And he found himself, by this time, at home before the mirror prepping for bed.
He was usually asleep before six am, but not this morning.
A faint ocean blue was now filling in the darkness all the way to the horizon and the day was barely starting to open it's eyes. Paul attached a leash to Clover's collar as he sat patiently staring out the vestibule's window.
Over the treetops barely moving with a crawl arrived hovering wisps of floating fog. The pale cottony billowed at the tips of the pines and Paul remembered sharing these unforgettable mornings with Sue.
Then, a scratching at the door. It was Clovers reminding him to go. Clover whimpered and noticed a hint of sadness in Paul's eye. He decided to head back in for more prepping for the big journey. He tied Clover's leash to wall hook usually meant hats or gloves, and walked back inside leaving Clover alone to sober up. He tilted a bit from the beer and noticed he was a little tipsy.
Paul had left the world and the winning ticket and Clovers's drunken tail, in remembrance of Sue and her visits.
As he walked inside, Clover began whimpering louder and like always Paul's heart warmed and he untied him and let him back inside and Clover rubbed up against his shins and smiled thankfully.
Paul's eyes fixated at the hook Sue once hung her mittens. Everything ceased in motion. The hook was empty. And nothing hung there. He reached out and touched it. It was as cold as ice.
Clover brushed his paw against his leg and Paul broke out of his trance and secured the lock on top of the window.
Then, he noticed he was still wearing his sawdust covered Wranglers and oil stained sweat top. He was really out of it this morning.
"Now to tell Shirley the Good news." As he put on his new pair of Levi blue jeans and his black sweater top, and changed out of his leather steel toe work boots, and into his Keen Alaska Boot he had ordered online and his long yellow rubber raincoat. The loud grinding noises of work seem to call him back. He ignored it and began his usually routine, but this time not with the road to work on mind but rather the road to Acadia National park.
He started up the coffee maker and added a four spoon fulls, in order to kill the buzz from the beer.
Part of him thought about returning Monday and part of him was ready to move on. All he needed was five more years and he could claim retirement. But five years is a long time and a lot can be accomplished, especially if one wanted to do it before the end of the year.
Paul promised his wife, while she was alive, that he'd get away from the mill and explore parts of the world he had never seen. Once, he even promised he'd take her on an ocean cruise, but time and money always got in the way, like it always had, and the trip never came to fruition. He regretted with all his heart and wanted so badly to make it up to her. But that would never happen.
"We'll pull another all nighter." Paul told Clover. It was easy to fall right into day, without the forty winks, if you worked the night shift.
Paul usually, came home, finished up a scratch off and leaned back in the recliner and stared into space. Sometimes four hours or until his eyelids became heavy and consciousness left him there alone and asleep in the old green, comfy chair.
Paul reached into the refrigerator still dripping from the shower, and cracked open the Capuccino shake. He shook it and then sat it on the stove. He finish it up as he made his way to Shirleys to reveal the goodnews. Yaaaahooo. Three hundred buckaroos. Paul sung and danced himself dry.
Today may be the day he hit the road toward Bar Harbor. That was going to be his next stop. "Screw work." Paul said to clovers. "Screw for real." He was going all the way this time and never looking back.
The sun hadn't fully rose and Paul was on his way to the corner stop to brag to Shirly and hog down a double sausage, onion, cheddar cheese and fried bacon biscuit sandwich she made homemade, right there in the Irving gas station. She called them a Shirley Surprise. And surely they were a surprise. Paul thought petting Clovers. Clover sat upfront in the cab, like he always did, gnawing on his dried pig feet ear, and letting out that raspy high pitch yawn, now and then.
Paul entered a patch of fog that always arrived sporadically. Just a second ago, the darkness out on the road held no sudden surprises, and he'd kept his high beams on, and kept to the right of the double yellow line, and even paid close attention as he let his foots gently off the gas pedal to coast around the dizzy curves. Then, more fog hit him. He was deeply lost now. Lost in it's suddenness. "I think we hit some fog Clovers." Clover continued chewing on the dehydrated pig ear as if nothing had happened. Sometimes he peek up and gaze over the front dash and into the passing world. But tonight Clovers was working on tearing that pig ear in two.
Lost for a second and couldn't see anything before him. It just appeared like that, all of a sudden. It was like a thick cloud hovering too low from the sky. Paul just drove through it and didn't bother with his fog lamps. He was in a hurry and excited. This might be the day he'd escape the slave camp he killed the mill. That is what he named it and there were many times he had shared his irritations and pain with Sue. And Sue would squeeze his hand and look into his eyes, before he would leave in the morning and tell him, "Just think of us, today. Okay. I love you, Paul. And I know one day we'll get away from all this, okay. Cheer up. Smile for me more."
Another patch of fog lifted and swirled before the speeding old pick up, until he had to let off the gas a bit more than usually. Paul began hiding downhill, by an old Sangerville pond, that had a small deck and usually three or four ducks. But not this rainy dawn. He checked the watch and figured he had about an hour before the sun was fully up.
Then, out of nowhere, he saw a set of eyes flash along the road. Paul stared deep into the fog and then it lifted and he was in the clarity of the shady night. He recognized it immediately. "Looky there Clovers." It was an old porcupine that was waddling across the road, taking its time step by step.
Paul curved and slowed down to about thirty. "Poor critter." He said only it sounded like Crittah. Like most country folk talk in Monson, or these parts of Maine.
"Almost hitcha." He pulled around and kept going.
Then, Clover's head popped up and he jumped up on the dash board, knocking over Paul's work gloves. Paul reached over to calm the dog and that's when the pain sizzled in his hand. Then, it worked its way to his left shoulder. The pain was aggressive and revealed no forgiveness. It ate at his back with viper fangs. Chewing at his back until he was nearly forced to pull over.
"Hang on Clover. Will be there. Shirley will give us something to kill the pain."
He kept driving and did his best to ignore the pain. This was pain he had earned and even owned, from working so many long and hard years up at the old mill in Monson.
"Moosehead had it's promises and I carry the weight of those promises." Paul looked over at Clover who know rested his head in Paul lap. "Its okay boy. I'll get through it. I always do."
He was at the top of the hill now and only a mile til Irvings gas station. He pictured buying another New Castle and some strong Advil. Sometimes Shirley would lend him a few of her pain pills, 'under the counter', he like to call it.
And if he could convince her his shoulder was acting up again she might lend him a few more. If he tried hard enough to cover up the pain and show her his pretty smile. Sometimes he'd overpay her for them and give a charming wink and as long as no one was around she drop a few white tabs, usually Oxycodone, or what she called, "Oxycotton." He heard her in the back of his head as he balanced the steering wheel and kept his eyes glued to the road. A patch of bright orange and bronze leaves whirled around, making tiny loops before the trucks high beams and then as if a strong unseen force pulled them tight against the road and they remained still, like a magnet will do with metal. Perfectly still on the road. As if they had never fallen from the trees. More whirling leaves settled within a spot of bright green pine needles that had been blown from the long walls of pine that hovered over the back road. Paul swerved again, barely missing a large jagged tree branch.
"This is one windy September." He told Clover as the dog covered his nose with his paw and whimpered until the truck balanced again.
Up ahead a shinning light appeared around the curving road and the truck began to climb another hill.
"One more hill and we're there."
He couldn't wait to tell Shirley about his winnings.
Clover sat up and usually did when they were this close to Shirly's place. The Irving Gas Stop, appeared in bright blue letters and Paul pumped the breaks and a high pitch squeal rang out like it usually did during the rain. Clover yawned and licked his chops and began to thump his tail against the leather seat.
"You want one em them biscuits duncha ol' Clove."
As Paul pulled in, he reached over Clover and opened the clove box and reached in. He pulled out a red tube of Deep Sooth Ultra Strength. He stopped the truck and opened the lid and rubbed a handful on his left shoulder blade and then applied a dab to his elbow.
"Deep soothing relief, my ass."
He stared at the tube contemplanting to move on and let the 4% camphor, 10% menthol and 30% methyl salicylate do it's job.
He sat in the cab staring at the old gas station and the fluorescent bright lights and the Budweiser sign fluttering out and thought about how old Shirly needs to change the neon bulb in it and just stared there and his eyes became watery.
"I wish it provided relief. But there is no relief from this pain." He pet Clovers and started to pull on the handle to let himself out.
He hesitated and then let go of the handle.
"Please God. Let me get bettah." He said and waited.
He bowed his head to fight the pain and waited for it to go away. The menthol set in and he inhaled and it felt good seeping into his lungs and he pushed all five fingers into his pectorals and lifted erect.
After while the pain arose over the Deep Sooth relief cream and it became nearly unbearable.
Clover licked him on the face and Paul wiped his hands clean on his jeans, so that he did't get any in the old dogs eyes.
He pictured Sue and her deep blue eyes and then petted Clover under the chin and opened the door. The interior lights flipped on and he caught a good look at the dog's eyes staring back at him. Clover knew what he was about to do and turned away and curled up in the passenger seat.
"Its okay boy." The old man told him slamming the truck door. Just as the door slammed shut a sheet of rain let loose and began to drench him. Paul's walk, turned into a trot and then to a fairly steady, but petty run. As good as a sixty year old can run. "Deja vu." Paul whispered remembering the downpour when he left the mill earlier, just as work let out. Paul could see inside and saw a husky, round lady, with a big apron covering her shameful size, spraying down the counters.
Shirley was there like always, wiping down the coffee makers and changing the filters. She had one of those large coffee containers open, adding more and more spoonfuls.
Paul ran closer to the front window and noticed it was steamed over and couldn't tell if it was her or not. He hoped it was because he wanted to brag about his winnings.
He pushed into the door, as if he was breaking a tackle, like he did when he played left halfback for PCHS. The door swung open and Shirley jumped.
On the Road again, by Willie Nelson was playing over the speakers. The song was becoming a theme for the night and soon for Paul's future.
"I got a winning ticket, Shirley." Paul said still leaning into the door avoiding using his aching arms. The door slid off his shoulder and thick lines of rainwater pelted over the brown and white tile. He brushed the droplets from his hair and rubbed his eyes with a covered sleeve.
"You do, huh." Shirley said back. She began whistling like she did and waddled over to the front registered, nearly excited as he.
"LET SEE EM'. Mr. Woodson." She reached her shaking hand out. She was getting old too and Paul didn't know if she was a two or three years older. He just remembered he had a crush on her when he was a freshman and she was close to graduating.
"Let me run it through the scanner." She took his ticket and fed into the little black box with a white sticker on it that had little round lotto balls on it.
Mr. Woodson waited with anticipation as the little machine noisily kicked on, and the scratch off was sucked up and began to vibrate letting out choppy digitize hiccups and then spat out white printed receipt. Chskt-chskt-chskt-chskt.
"Come on baby." Paul whispered.
Shirley looked up with her dark eyes and cracked a smile and began to laugh. Her turkey neck bounced up and down and Paul raised one fist in the air.
"It's a winner, Mr. Woodson." Shirley said.
Paul didn't want to ask her for the meds yet. He wanted to wait until he was about to leave. He took in a deep inhale and the camphor and menthol invaded his nose. He winced at the pain in his shoulder and twisted his head to the cardboard cutout of a girl in a bikini holding a sixpack of Budweiser.
"When you get her?" Paul asked.
"Uhm, few days ago." Shirley smiled and opened the register.
"Oh." Paul was thinking of getting a six pack and keeping for his next stop, wherever that may be.
"Smells like another sore shoulder."
"Your commenting on my new cologne." Paul said winking at her.
"It hurts doesn't it, Mr. Woodson."
"Yep. It sure does."
Paul twisted around, balancing on the end of the counter and then made his way toward the back coolers. He dodged the beer isle and picked out another cappuccino drink.
"You got one of those Road To Riches tickets, Shirley."
"Yep. Sure do, Mr. Woodson." She took out a wad of twenties and began slapping them down. Then, she leaned over to the mini safe under the counter and began turning the dial to the combination.
"I'll have to get into the safe for the rest. It'll take a second."
Paul reached into the cooler and retrieved a small bottle entitled Mocha Mint and then just as he closed the door it dropped and shattered on the floor leaving a small puddle of brown ooze.
"My arm." Paul went to his knees gasping from the pain. His left shoulder felt as if it had been penetrated by a fireplace poker.
"You okay, Mr. Woodson." She asked tucking away three hundred in twenty dollar bills in her apron. Shirley walked over to Paul and leaned over looking down at him on the floor.
"Getting there." Paul said looking over at the front door as it swung upon and two pair of boots began stomping clumped mud. Shirley moved and exposed a tall man with thin curly sinister mustache, a dark set of sunglasses and a long Ivory pipe with a dragonhead revealing two emerald set eyes.
"Hell of a pipe." Paul said.
"Huh." Shirley spun around and saw the stranger and he vanished behind a rack of Spicy Nacho cheese Dorito chips.
"Hm." Shirley said.
"Give me hand. I think I know this gentleman."
Shirley scooped one arm under Paul's back and gave him support. Paul tightens his legs and lifted through the pain until he was on his feet.
"Moon, is that you hiding behind them Chips?" Paul said, his voice now husky.
"Ahhhhh. Is that you Mr. Paul." The strange man said nibbling on the pipe.
"I haven't seen you in town in years."
"Moved away." Moon said fiddling with the bag of chips.
Moon tossed the chips onto Shirley's counter and walked over to the once downed Paul.
Moon was a tall, thin man. About six two. Dark hair and bright bronze eyes. About forty. His hair was in a long pony tail wrapped in a red scrunchy and he wore a slick black Armani suit with a thin black tie, that Paul guessed may have been a clip-on. He stomped his boot again exposing his narrow snake skin sterling silver pointy tip boots. His shades were solid black and he lifted them up revealing deep bronze eyes, that glowed golden, in order to clearly scan the room. He sniffed and thumbed his nostril licking his lips and tasting the air.
"What were ya doing on the floor, Pauly."
"What has it been twenty years since I've seen ya. You look good Moon." Paul dusted his jeans off and held out his hand.
"Its good to shake yer hand again." Moon said.
Shirley smiled and made her way to the counter.
"Don't let me interrupt you boys." She made her way to counter and began organizing a new roll of lotto tickets.
"So what brings you to Guilford?" Paul asked.
"Passing through from Newport. Visiting family." Moon said rearranging his long pipe. It was still fresh of mint tobacco and still smoldering. Shirley paid no mind to the embers from his pipe. Not even to a lit tobacco pipe bothered her. Not in her place.
"Where ya headed?"
"Back to New York." Moon approached Paul closer and gripped his shoulder.
"Your in pain, Paul. Aren't ya?"
"Uhm. Well. To be honest. Yes, I am." Paul tugged at his left shoulder and tilted his head in the opposite direction. It was a stretch the workers would do at work sometimes after lunch.
"Its your shoulder isn't it." Moon said placing his hand on the shoulder and squeezing it.
"Yep." Paul backed away in pain.
"Hm. How long has it been hurting?"
"Off and on for the past few years. Its gotten worse since Sue died."
"I'm so sorry to hear about that." Moon said shifting his eyes to the floor. "How long has it been?"
"Losing Sue or the pain in my body."
"I lost Sue two years ago. I guess the shoulder starting hurting really bad about two or three months after she passed."
"That can happen. We can hold that stress in our bodies. So is it only in the shoulder."
"That's where most of the pain lies."
"On a scale from one to ten what would you say it is."
"Now. I'd say its not far from a perfect score."
"Do ya need a hospital."
"They just give me pills and I can't keep those in my house. Not while I'm alone. I formed a pretty bad addiction since it first started. When I lost Sue." Paul lifted his left shoulder and then settled it back into place.
"So yer an addict too."
"Well. No. I went cold turkey. I keep em hidden, but not always in my home." Paul eyed Shirley and Shirley scrubbed the counter harder than before. She was pretending like she wasn't listening in to there every word.
Moon looked back at Shirley and then returned to Paul's eyes.
"We need to meet sometime and go over old times. Arrrrrg. Gooooo Pirates. Remember that time we busted a pumpkin on Mr. Humperdinck's front lawn and had to hide in the drainage ditch all night."
"Oh, I remember. We barely escape the fuzz on that one. Remember when we Tee Pee'd Mr. Eckerd's house and we lit that bag of cow manure on fire and he came out with shoot gun blaring. Those were the Golden years."
"We never did get locked up. So what are ya doing with yer life now, Moon?"
"Dr. Mueng. Dr. Moon Mueng is what the kids call me now. Well, young adults. I teach at NYU now."
"Believe it or not. Earth Sciences. And I'm taking a botany course on the side. At least right not. Also, working on my third book. It's about flowers."
"Flowers. Botany. Imagine that. It's good to see ya, Mr. Mueng. Or Doctor Mueng, that is." Paul had made his way to Shirley's counter.
"Let me get the chips for ya Moon." Paul pulled out his wallet and flashed Shirley his American Express.
"Also, get the gas too. Yer getting gas aren't ya, Moon?"
"Yep." Moon replied. "You don't have to."
Shirley swiped his card and Paul signed the customer's copy as best he could. His pen danced across the paper in sweeping, tight pirouettes, and at least for this little touch and go, his Hancock consisted of a sloppy, tall P that looked more like a T, and just squiggles for his last name which in a way resembled a stick figure seagull thrown from hurricane winds after crashing through a fishing boat exhaust fan.
"Hm. Tall Woooo. . .Hell of a signature there Mr. Woodson. Asked for your John Hancock and got a Pollack instead."
"Sorry. Gotta get an early start. The road awaits me and Clovers, Shirley."
"Wanna gettem another pig feet, Mr. Woodson."
"Naaa. He's got one in the beetah. Thinkin about picking em' something up in Bangor from a dine'ah."
"You don't spoil em too much, der Paul."
"Naaaaa. Good day, Shirley."
"More like Good mawning." She said heading back to the coffee maker with handful of filters. Moon took his pipe out and nodded to Shirley and she gave him a quick wink.
Willie Nelson song was still playing over the speakers and Paul hummed to it and even whispered as he pushed open the gas station door. Moon cut in front of him to hold the door open.
"Can't wait to get on that road again."
The pain had seeped into his forearm now. He walked out of the gas station and passed Moon as Moon held the door open for him.
They walked out into the moist air. It was only sprinkling now. He shook his forearm as the throbbing continued. Pins and needles leaked out and through his fingertips, but the burning under the elbow remained.
"So. Walk over with me." Moon led the way to his black Range Rover which was decked out with twenty inch six spoke allow wheel rims and grey diamond turned finish. He wasn't afraid to show his wealth. Heck of a nice ride. Paul thought.
"I'm finishing up my dissertation on rare flowers of Non-occidental descent."
"Basically rare flowers found in Foreign countries. Not westernized."
"I've been studying rare flowers from Philippines. From my family's family. Ancient history stuff. My grandmother, going on a hundred and three now, has this old recipe from this unheard of Filipino flower, we're talking turn of the century. I got a team working on it now. At the university. They're reviewing it for further study. The effects of it are astronomically astounding. At least they will be in today's modern medicine. Once ingested properly it has amazing healing effect on the mind and on the body. Grandma sends me letters and I write er' back. She gives me the inside info on the things we could never find in books. Stuff never printed in any library. Old, old stuff. We're talking antique and top secrete. Government would. . .let say they pay big bucks. The recipe goes way back. Turn of the century cobweb old. One morning, I check my PO Box and there it is. Grandma sent it to me. I had been complaining about some minor back pain and it got around to her. The recipe came in through the mail on this wrinkled up, yellow stained rice paper. It was actually handed over by her grandmother's mother. So it dates back in the eighteen hundreds and rumor has it, this particular recipe even went back further. Her grandmother's mother. But let me get to the point. This unknown flower. This thing, this recipe, holds potent, wer're talking potent seedlings which have a amazingly strong healing effects on people. At least so far on lab rats and some humans. Some volunteered in the Psychology department. Anyway, it heals people holistically and with amazing speed. People like you and me. Basically its an extremely powerful herbal pain medicine. It's a pain medicine. From basically an undiscovered flower. But with hardly no side effects or related health issues whatsoever."
"What like an opiate?"
"No this is non-addictive. It's a cream. You shred it up. Boil the pedals and seeds. You can crush them too and then add basic oils and some vehicle and then you just. . .just. . .just. . . rub it on ya. Like Icy hot. And Wam. The pain is gone. I mean gone. It helps arthritis, tendon damage, muscle damage. You name it."
"How long does it take?"
"Its instantaneous. Immediate. And one flower last for weeks and sometimes months."
"What's it called?"
"Mah. . . .on." Paul took his time to roll it off his tongue. He curved his lips up and whisperingly mouthed "Mah. . . . .on. Mahon."
"Yes. The Mahon Flower. They are grown in cold environments and look like the Helleborus. But's not poisonous. And they have six pedals and usually only six large round seeds. Much larger than the Helleborus."
"Helleborus is a Christmas rose or also known as the Lentil Rose. It looks similar but its actually highly toxic and not from my country. Not the one from my family. Nothing like the Mahon's powerful abilities. The Mahon is a cold weather flower and grows in harsh conditions, like the Helleborus, but isn't poisonous at all. Its quite the opposite. It's the remedy for pain. Or it will be. So far I've never found it in any botanist book that I have ever come across. Just in the Mueng family. And passed down to mother to mother over the century. It was used in war related injuries and in for pregnant mothers and even for old age. It has a distinct ivory pedals with a yellowish purple center. Remember, six pedals."
Paul scratched the crown of his head and stepped back one step.
" You working on sixty now aren'tcha Paul? In lot of pain, huh. I see it in your eyes." He said.
"Yep. I was about to retire at the mill. Down the road in Monson. Havenwood products. Been working there for nearly forty years now. I worked at the Moosehead furniture a few years before that. Been doing manufacturing work for far too long. I was going to retire in this next few years, but I decided to take what savings I had and this winning scratch off ticket and go camping with Clovers in Bar Harbor. I can't take the pain anymore. Had to leave early."
"Odd you say that."
"Believe it or not I had planted some bulbs there. Near a lighthouse on Mount Desert Island."
"The Mahon flower is there."
"Maybe. They are delicate flowers and depending on the right conditions. They need salty air. They grow near the ocean. They need to be near the ocean water and most have the perfect temperature during winter. Usually they bud during this time."
"So one might be there. On mount desert?"
"Hm. Yes. Well, yeah. I haven't been back to check. I can't remember the name of the light house. It's the southwestern part of the island. Uhm. Uuuuhm. Bass is the name. Bass Harbor Head Light. Its about a hundred yards north of the light house. I made a very small rock garden and left a small opening for the flowers. For sunlight. If they did bloom most likely they be ready by now. It take a lot of scouting around. But you'd find it."
"Ready for picking, eh?"
"Yep. You should check it out and if you find any there do let me know. Its important. Oh, one more thing. I planted them on a hilly area and its going to be a steep climb. Very steep."
"Pretty steep. Be careful. And give me a call. Hears my number and how to get a hold of me. I could use them for my research. I was going to go by there, but I need to get back to the city and I didn't have time to check on them this year." Moon handed him his business card embroidered with chain of Oriental white lilies and at the corner faded emerald dragon scales.
"Call me as soon as you get back from your trip." Moon took out a small butane torch and lit his pipe and puffed.
"Will do. It was nice to see ya again Moon."
"You too, Paul Woodson. And tell me if you find a Mahon. Okay?"
"Will do my friend."
Moon jumped in his Range Rover and started her up and drove off into the misty fog.
"Mahon flower. Mount Desert Island. Light house, huh." Paul looked up to the faint blue sky, morning was barely setting in still. The pain still stung in his shoulder. He whispered, "God is my strength and power. . ." Paul grabbed his shoulder and readjusted it, twirling it in place and breathed through the pain.
He slowly made his way toward Shirley's front door and the rain began grow harder. "He maketh my feet like hinds' feet and setteth me upon my high places. Second Samuel thirty four."
Paul opened the door and made his way to smiling Shirly.
"Finally its time to collect my winnings and grab me a Red Bull. It was going to be a long trip to Bar Harbor and Clover and I going to make it there before noon. Shirley do ya have a mapsco."
The morning sun arose in one long orange strip against the white rolling clouds and pale blue sky. Morning was coming strong.
The rays sent long blinding ivory and golden rays of flickering sunbeams through the endless acres of passing pines that trailed along the bumpy road out of town.
Paul speedometer read seventy five. Just a tad over the fifty mile an hour sign he had just passed. The town was fading behind him as he watched the pines and kept a good eye out for any cruisers or forest rangers. No green trucks with lights on them and no black SUV with those thick fog lamps and no police vehicles yet. Part of him wanted to slow, but he was excited about leaving.
He had work on his mind the whole way out. Many years of lifting one hundred and fifty pound logs about four feet long, and gripping the smooth skins, shaved by the debarker machines. He'd place them in the grove on the lathe and the running around as swift and graceful as a deer. And this all happen in his twenties. As he passed into his thirties they moved into quality control and then he begged to go back to the lathe. The lathe was a muscle job. It required keen attention and focus. And usually ten hours a day or more.
Shaves of wood would fall on his feet and he'd kick them into the square shoot and listen to them hit the conveyor and then grind up in the chipper below, which most workers there called The Hog.
Millions of trees I must of cut down. Paul thought. Millions of acres of trees all over Maine. The Birchwood was his victim and he produced strips of wood rolled into a ribbon, which was feed into what the workers called "Choppahs."
Above the chopper isle hung a small black box with a number that glowed in red numbers 457. That meant four hundred and fifty seven reps per minute. Four hundred and fifty pieces of product falling down a shot and onto a conveyor and sent to the heat dryers. A stamper would cut through endless amounts of wood and spit out over four hundred perfectly shaped corndog sticks, or tongue depressor, and in one minute.
He pictured the round log turning on the lathe, and the blade going in and acidic water squirting out and onto the floor.
This went on all day. Nearly twenty four seven. He remembered the huge lumber yard filled with fallen Birchwood.
That was a lot of product over the years. A lot of fallen trees.
An old porcupine was making its away across the road again.
"Two in one day." Paul whispered to Clover as Clover sense some creature was close and got up on all fours with his neck stretched out and his mad beastly eyes piercing.
Paul slowed the truck and checked his rearview mirror and dodged the little spiny waddling thing.
The porcupine stopped as if he wanted to be hit. Or at least Paul thought. "I'm not going to end your life ya little buggah."
He kept heading out of town down Water Street and eventual made it to Bangor road and kept heading down interstate 15. It was a two lane road all the way to Bangor and Clover had fallen asleep. He was such a wishwashy dog, one minute up and about trying to sniff out the passing porcupine and then the next sound asleep. "Too much beer, you old dog."
The porcupine's long quills kept embedded in Paul's mind. He pass a the pine and then think of the quills again. And then, he pass a few telephone poles and back to the quills. He pictured himself touching then end of the sharp spines and looked down at his bleeding finger tip. It wasn't his, it was Sue's. He was now in the doctor's office and it was two years before the Ovarian Cancer took her in.
"We think she may have a year, maybe more. If the chemotherapy doesn't work, sixteen, maybe seventeen months."
Sue looked down at her Allure magazine and the word from Doctor Gibbons didn't bother her. The doctor walked out of the room, leaving the two alone. Paul looked at her. She seemed like a little kid again, wagging her foot and smiling at the magazine. It was as if she had been relieved by the news. As if the pain of life was finally unveiling to some real meaning. All this pain would have an answer. All this pain would finally come to fruition. It would end.
"What's wrong honey. I knew the news wasn't going to be good." She smiled larger and then set the magazine down and looked at Paul. Her eyes sunken in with dark circles, now.
"We'll find a way to beat this, Sue." Then he sang some original tune to her. One he had just made up on the spot. It had a 1950's rockabilly uplift. "Will Find a Waaaay. Wiiiil fiiind a waaay." He whistled and joined her smile. Might as well, the scene was so depressing, might as well smile.
And walked over and kissed her gently on the forehead and then whispered in her ear, "Will find a way."
The next months would be nothing but needles puncturing her skin and every week she had to prick the end of her finger for blood tests. The chemo was painful and the image of the needle was the staring character in this scene. The syringe stabbing the skin and the red blood, like red maple syrup running down her forearm, and Sue wincing and closing her eyes as the tube field with her blood and the toxic serum was released from the medical machine. All this played in his head and rewinding and he did his best focusing on the road with his leaden eyes.
The porcupine spiny back entered his mind and then back to the syringes and her blood. And he did his best to dismiss it and the beauty of the pines carry him from the nightmarish memory.
A few miles passed and he found his way out of it and turned up the radio and listened to the morning news and then got bored of it and cracked a window.
Paul found his way back to reality on Bangor road and then passed a tractor graveyard and looked over at Clover.
"Will stop somewhere and I'll getcah a biscuit." Clover remained asleep and the road kept humming under the truck's tires.
He was going to keep on driving til he got to Bar Harbor, but a deep hunger hit his belly and he began going over various café's he knew about in his mind. Different diners that may or may not have still been there.
Paul was taken to Bar Harbor as a kid and dad use to take him to the beach and see the whales and cliffs and light houses. Stopping off at the diners was time to getaway from the heavy work on Dad's farm.
Paul continued driving anyways and turned up the radio to his favorite radio station. Old school blues. Sam Lightning Hopkins, "Baby please don't go" crept on and began to ooze over the small speakers in the door. He began to tap the dashboard and finger the steering wheel like an old guitar.
Paul sang along, "Baby please don't Go. Baby please don't go. Baby please don't go, back to New Orleans. You know I love you so." He hummed along and the hum mixed into a whistle and the whistle into snapping and then to hollering.
"Before I be your dog." He petted Clovers and Clover woke up flailing his tail about. "Before I be your dog. Before I be your dog. I get you way'd out here and let you walk all alone." The song continued on and so did Paul stepping up the gas and moving the old truck closer and closer to his first pit stop for the journey. The song played on and Paul continued, now with full force in his voice. Pushing his gut in and singing as loud as he could.
"I'd get ya way out here and let ya walk alone. YOUR KNOW YOUR MAN DOWN GONE. YOUR KNOW YOUR MAN DOWN GONE. YOUR KNOW YOUR MAN DOWN GOAAAHN. TO COUNTY FARM. WITH ALL HIS SHACKLES ON."
The old truck puttered along and swerved another critter running along, perhaps a field mouse or a squirrel and then a lightning speedy red fox, and Paul kept trucking toward Bangor singing wildly and filling the truck cabin with Hopkins rustic southern voice.
After Bangor was forty four miles to Bar Harbor and then he camp at Acadia and get Clovers fed and then the next morning onward to the Bass lighthouse to search out the flower.
"It better make all the pain go away, ol' Moon."
It wasn't long until Paul's eyes were shut and the truck's engine cold and the emergency break on.
There was a rumbling sound and Paul's eyes snapped open and he took a deep breath. Clover was licking him in the face and all up in his nostrils. Wincing he pushed the dog back and then patted him under his floppy ear. He sat up and realized his seatbelt was still on. Before him a parking lot. A red and white sign over the front entrance read Nicky's Crusin Diner.
Paul had fallen asleep in the parking lot and Clover was extra happy with his tongue hanging out, sniffing the air and pawing at the leather seat cover and then flopping down on Paul's lap.
"I'm up now. Boy." Paul rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked around. "We are pretty far from home."
Clovers began barking as a fat lady in a flowery Mu Mu dress covered in Yellow lilies and red and her two kids both in matching tan Boys Scout of America outfits, squeezed in beside his truck to get into there Suburban. The two kids held three white paper sacks with Nicky's Crusin Diner in red letters and the tops spilling to the brim with onion rings and French fries. The Mu Mu lady carried a large sack that smelt like burnt bacon and American cheese.
She smiled exposing her healthy round face and her two kids, with bright blue eyes, and ginger freckles and bright red hair poking out of the scout hats, waved at Clover and Clover kept barking with full force. They started their engines and pulled out of the parking lot, honking at the car in front of them and trying to fit into Union street. It was as if they had never been there. Fleeting with amazing speed and agility. The surbuban honked again after mutating into traffic and vanishing into the business of that morning.
Actually it was almost afternoon. The digital clocked velcroed on the dash board read 11:53.
"Nearly noon, Clovers. Lets go get breakfast."'
Clover moaned and then buried his head in his paws, like he does when he gets overly excited and then gnawed at his dried pig ear. Paul took the keys out of the ignition and then a lightning strike shoot into his wrist and then up to his back and then the shoulder started throbbing again. The pain had come back and the intensity with it. Sometimes it wasn't as bad, but when it did arrive it was a first class guest with a all the baggage.
"Man." Paul said under his breath as he opened the truck door and landed his leather work boots on a mess of gravel that had piled up from some unknown reason. He cleared a few of the rocks, threw a few back in the rock garden that rested along edge of the parkinglot. The boots lay there alone. One toppled over with the strings hanging loose. Paul wiggled his toes and could see a toenail poking out of a hole in his white socks.
"Need new socks Clover." He bent over and grabbed a work boot and snuggled his old foot into the leather insole and tied triple bows. His spine was stiff from sleeping in the cabin of the pickup and he reached back to pound on it. He stiffened up and then grabbed the muscle rub he had left on the dash and lifted up the back of his flannel and applied some on the lumbar region of his back. He reached back behind the seat and grabbed a camouflage hat with deer antlers on it and the words HAVENWOOD products, inc. He wiggled it on and yanked the brim straight and true.
"Deep Smoothing Relief my ass." He said rubbing in deeper anyways. Leaning over further he reached out to grab the toppled boot and then stuffed his free foot inside and tied it off like the other one. He got out and his sacrum was on fire and he twisted a bit and went into his best John Wayne strut and then back to as normal as a man can walk. He wasn't far to the front door of Nicky's when Clover let out a yelp and he turned to the truck to make sure the window wasn't cracked to wide. It was cool enough afternoon to leave Clover in there for a few minutes. He thought and walked inside the diner.
The overhead speakers were playing what sounded like Muddy Water's Rollin Stone. Paul couldn't tell if the song was playing in his head or actual inside the diner. But he didn't care. Not now. Not after leaving work for good.
Paul noticed an old bicycle hanging on the wall, and bright green neon arrow with DRIVE IN ENTRANCE hanging above some old photos and 1950's memorabilia. He walked around and noticed there was an old headshot of James Dean squinting his eyes and looking all tough as tough as a person could back then and in black and white. There was a toy like ceramic pink ice cream with waffle cone hanging next to an old Gibson electric guitar and a colorful full framed poster of a jukebox.
He walked up to the bar and looked up at a black and white mock road sign on the wall that read BEWARE OF ATTACK WAITRESS. And above that a personalized license plate with Maine 74 SHONK and VACATIONLAND underneath in black. He figured the license plate was once real and hoped the waitress didn't take things too literally.
"Welcome to Nicky's Diner. Can I help ya, sir."
"Not too late for breakfast is it?" Paul scanned the breakfast section of the menu and decided on some fried bacon for Clovers and
"And one sausage and biscuit."
"We don't have that sir. But I might can make one up for ya." She winked at him and then disappeared behind a swinging door.
The place reminded him of a place he hung out as a kid and really wanted to get a double cheeseburger with a malt, but figured his stomach couldn't take it and was all out of Pepto-Bismol Chewables.
He walked out eyeing an old Native man, with curly black hair and dark eyes and flannel cut off shirt and old ragged blue jeans with holes in the knees, sipping on some coffee and reading the State paper. Paul tilted his hat at him and the Native man continued sipping the coffee and turned the page of the newspaper. He looked alone and out of work. Like many had been looking lately.
The man straightened his long black pony tail tied at the end with black rubber bands.
Paul decided to do something he hadn't done in a long time. He wanted to help and for no apparent reason.
"What are you having today sir."
"Well. Uhm. Just the coffee right now."
Paul reached in his leather wallet and pulled out a twenty. "Its on me." He laid the twenty on the table and smiled at the man.
"I can't take your money sir."
"Look. Me and my dog our about to head out on a long journey and I haven't been the best person over the last few years. Been working a lot. Been alone, besides Clovers. And my wife died about two years ago. Let me by you a nice meal. . .Please."
"Well. If you insist. If you want you can sit down."
"Nooo. I would like to. I haven't talked to a new face in a long time. I haven't been out of Monson in years and its nice to see the world and to be in this restaurant. But my dog is waiting on me and he is hungry and we have another hour on the road ahead of us and maybe more miles to cover after that."
"Where are ya headed?"
"We'll, first stop is Bar Harbor. Acadia park. Some lighthouse. Its got the name Bass in it. . .Uhm. I forget. Wait. Then, I don't' know."
A silence filled the place.
"Perhaps you'll find it when you get there."
"A guess so."
"Rolling stone gathers no moss."
"What was that?" Paul turned around and faced the man. He just sat there sipping his coffee, as if he wasn't there and there was no twenty dollar bill sitting on the table.
He pushed on the door and headed across the parkinglot. Clover paws were resting on the steering wheel and his tongue hanging out and his breath fogging up the windshield.
"Brought home the bacon, Clovers." Paul said fitting intot he bucket seat and fastening the seatbelt.
He twisted the knob, adjusted it to Old School Blues channel and the radio sizzled on.
Clovers whined and performed a jittery tap dance for his food, pawing at the seat cover again and mauling at the air.
"Hang on boy."
Clovers mouth salivated and his jaw hung low. He tossed a piece of bacon in the air and Clover gobbled it up.
An afternoon in Bangor had arrived and the road awaited impatiently. Soon Bar Harbor.
"Mahon flower. Why does that sound familiar. Mahon. Maaahoooon." Paul kept pronouncing Mahon in different ways. First it was a short A sound like in mars. With a long O. Maaawwhoon. Then with a long A vowel like in May. May-hooon. He kept playing with Mahon's pronunciation.
"Well, Clovers we're going to find The Mahon flower."
Paul turned up the radio again. Another bluesy song played and he rubbed the back of his elbow and circled his left shoulder in tiny little swirls.
"Ouuuueewwweee. I love this song, Clovers." Robert Johnson's Crossroad came on and Paul sang along. Clovers ears perked up and he began to bark. Paul leaned over and popped open the glove box and found an old leather sunglass case.
"Lets get Bluesy Clovers." He flip the case open with one had and let the sunglasses drop in his lap. Clovers smelled them and he pushed the dog back. Then, he picked the shades up and held them before his eyes and slowly and smoothily eased them onto the brim of his nose.
He sang, "I went down to the crossroad and fell down on my knees. I went down to the crossroads and fell down on my knees. Ask the lord above, 'have mercy now poor Bob if you please. Yeeoooo, standing at the crossroad tried to flag a ride. Ooo. Eee. Ooo. I tried to flag a ride. Didn't nobody seem to no me babe. Everybody pass me by. Standing at the cross road babe. Eee eee eee Rising sun going down. You can run, you can run. Tell my friend Willie Brown."
Clover covered his nose with his paw and began to whimper and Paul squabbled his head with his hand.
He continued to sing the song to it's last breath,
"You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown. 'at I got the crossroad blues this mornin Lord. Babe, I'm sinkin down, And I went to the crossroad Momma. I looked east and west. Lord, I didn't have no sweat woman, ooh-well, in my distress."
The song ran out and now Clovers was scooting his ass on the seat cover like a vacuum cleaner. This meant he needed to relieve himself.
"Number one or number two, Ol' Cloves. I guess you can't answer that."
Paul spotted green and white rest stop sign that had reflective red and blue Exxon logo on it and decided to make the exit. He peered up at azure and smiled and thanked the heavens for such a beautiful day and then turned off still humming to the crossroads that now echoed inside him. Clover tongue hung out and he seem to know where they where going.
"We'll be there in a jiffy, ol boy."
The dog squirmed around like he always did and then twisted and rotated into a yawn and stood up on his hinds and pawed the dash board as the fog from his breath amounted as it always did when overly whet.
"Calm down now. We'll be there in a sec." Paul stepped on the gas and the station pulled toward them as if it was on some speedy conveyor. He reached under the seat and grabbed a silvery chain leash and snapped it on Clover's thick black leather, double holed and glassy diamond studded collar.
Paul pulled over, rolling the window down on Clover's side and let the truck run until the gridlock cleared and people went on with flurry and then opened the door and began to explore a place for Clovers to dismiss his breakfast. He found a cleared out spot behind the Men's restroom, that nestled a flux of old blue Styrofoam and dead flowers.
"Come er boy." Clover leaped out of the passenger side window and onto the concrete and landed like a cool leopard and then with his chain leash dragging and ringing behind him.
Paul let Clover do his business and walked inside and caught sight of the newspaper stand. On the front page of the State Paper read the following:
A glossy of a little girl with bright blue eyes and curly blond hair smiling was printed on the front page.
Bar Harbor 7 yr old Girl Goes missing.
Sept. 3rd, 2012.
Police are searching for young seven year old Nicole Miles last seen Clark Point Inn in Bar Harbor. Her new foster parents Annabel Miles and her husband Richard Miles reported her missing from their suite early the morning of September 19th. "We just awoke and she was gone." Annabel reported to Bar Harbor police when interviewed hours after she went missing. "She was asleep on a cot when we went to bed that night. Only feet from our bed. We have no idea how this happened. No signs of breaking and entering. No criminal mischief. No hint of being followed. There was no one stalking us or any mysterious behavior. No strangers hanging about. She just vanished. We kissed her goodnight and by morning she was gone. She just vanished."
Richard Miles has contacted his family church and there will be a prayer visage held this Sunday afternoon at 3pm, at Mr. And Mrs. Miles home in Bar Harbor.
Nicole Miles was last seen sound asleep in the bedroom suite of Clark Point Inn the night of September 19th. Parents sent her to bed on a cot at around 9pm and the following early morning she was missing.
"I woke up at around three thirty in the morning and she was gone." Mrs. Miles stated.
Bar Harbor police have released a search and rescue team and have not given up on hope. A large number of officers and special teams to investigate the disappearance has been deployed. Hundreds of local residence in Bar Harbor have signed on to join the hunt for Nicole at 6am September 20th, beginning on Clark Point road and Dirigo. The search will continue to Norwood cove and more search parties will meet up to reconvene at around 6pm.
"People can't believe something like this would happen in Bar Harbor. Especially in a place where crime is so low." A nearby resident said to WABI channel 5 news.
Police have released photos of Nicole in hopes that someone will come forward.
"All locals are looking for little Nicole. We pray someone will step forward soon."
Paul carried the paper with him to the coffee counter and poured a cup into a Styrofoam glass and added a touch of sugar and ripped a small yellow pack in two and sprinkled a few pinches. "Hm" He said placing the article down and setting the coffee down to the attendant. It was a tall man, with dark curly hair and deep emerald piercing eyes and a nametag that read Jared.
"How far is Bar Harbor form here?" He asked the attendant.
"Uuuh. You got about twenty more miles or so. Just keep following this highway that way." Jared pointed behind and outward at the window. Paul thanked him and left a dollar on the counter. "Oh. I'll take the paper too." Paul said dumping down another dollar.
"Yep." The man said poking at the cash register.
"Ooooh. Yeah. I forgot gas. Uhhhm. Lets try fifeteen and I'll see if that tops it off. If not I'll pick up this Road To Riches."
"One Roat To Riches." The clerk insinuated he buy it.
"Sure. One won't hurt." Paul swiped his card again and eyed the cigarette counter. He hadn't smoked one since Sue got cancer and now that she was gone, he remained true to his promise. He found it hard to commit slow suicide alone. A lot of things were hard to do since Sue died. Even this trip to Bar Harbor. The pain was enough in his forearm and under his elbow and behind his left shoulder. The mill was hindering with that enough and there was no reason to speed it up. Paul took his receipt and crumbled it into his pocket. A string of fire ran down his forearm and then pierced into the tips of his fingers. Several metal chords stringing inside him. A live wire going off.
"Dear lord." Paul prayed and looked to the tile ceiling.
He walked down the isle looking for another pain relieving cream. "Ultra Strength muscle rub." He said softly and picked it up. He thought of the Mahon flower and how the pedals must of veered upward with a curl and it's long green stem and the six large seeds. He smelled the air and pretended he was holding the flower in his hand and then stood there before the counter swaying back and forth and picturing the flower growing at lightning speed and at enormous height. There he was, on the side of a massive cliff hugging the Atlantic. There he was holding the flower Mr. Mueng mentioned. This mystical remedy of pain.
Then, an electrical bell sounded. A new traveler stood at the doorway wearing a long black jumpsuit with a cap with Moose antlers on it. He carried an oversize coffee mug and stared oddly at Paul. "How yah."
Paul awoke from his daydream and looked down at his hands. He wasn't holding the Mahon flower, but rather a red tube called Muscle Rub. He put the red tube of 30% Methyl Salicylate, 10% menthol and 4% camphor away and took a few steps to the side.
"This stuff just ain't gonna cut it." Paul opined under his breath.
He balanced his coffee and pushed the door open and a mammoth of sunlight spilled onto his face.
"Back to the road Clovers." He turned around the corner by the old Styrofoam to collect Clovers and pump the gas.
The sun spilled over his face as he called out to Clover and the dog came running with a reassuring gallop and leaped
Paul drove down the road passing a chain of small houses and outside the driveway were hefty four wheelers or red beat up pickups and green and light orange rustic tractor on crumbled cinderblocks. And a man laying under it with oil stained work overalls, and next to him a large silvery wrench. Winds shook the nearby pines. Pear green leaves and emerald branches and deep tan pine needles brushed about.
Paul felt a nothingness again. Then everything came back to him. And he heard Sue whisper to him. "Feels like every part of me is on fire" and the truck keeps on rolling and a trailer home flashes by in a fading blur and line of red brick houses side by side speedily pass, with riding lawnmowers spitting gasoline, and green grass and hay color shavings into a messy piles that go on and on.
The ringing was still in his ear from the mill.
Then. The he caught the little critter waddling along the shoulder of the interstate.
And there it was again. Its little prickly back shifting it's weight side by side. Another porcupine. But this time it was crossing the interstate toward Bar Harbor. And barely making its crawl to safety to the adjacent ditch.
The quills wavered and one transformed into the syringe.
"Why are you reading so many magazines now." He said shifting through a pile of Allure and Women's Health on the chair in the hospital room. "Shouldn't you be reading the bible. I have some passages chosen."
"Get me one of them Women Health magazines."
She said with a guilty smile.
"I'll read you songs of Solomon before dawn." He said to her with a calm voice. He handed her the magazine and she thumbed through.
"I turn the pages backward."
"I always did that." The heart monitor was beeping steadily and this made Paul feel comfortable now.
"Its hard to get used to you with no hair."
"I'm as bald as an Eagle now." She said smiling licking her index finger and flicking to the next page.
"You know I don't know why I read this either, Chuck. Its full of Sex, Food and Drugs."
"All my life I've been anal retentive about my first name. People calling me Paul, Sue. You are the only one who called me Chuck."
"I like Chuck." She said playfully.
"For some odd reason I let you call me Chuck for so long."
"Chuck is a fun name. And I didn't always call you Chuck, Paul." She said.
"What am I going to do without you, Suey?" He said as his eyes went watery.
"I don't know. I'm sure you'll think of something." She said. "You always do."
Still like a child she sat in the hospital bed flipping through the pages.
He saw her hand gripe the white bed sheet and she pulled on the sheet as it slipped loose from the hospital bed and then the alcohol and stiff aroma of disinfected made him breath with careful rhythm and at times he closed his eyes, "Grab me one of them Allures. That'll kill the pain." She said and then sighed.
"I feel like every part of me is on fire." Paul turned to her quickly and her eyes went wide. They seemed hollow too.
Paul opened it for her and turned the pages looking at the colorful adds and angelic faces hoping it would distract her from the pain. "I don't know why you read this on the time."
"Sex, food and money. There not all full of sex, food and money are they, Paul." She was in pain now.
"I can't stand this." She said trying to focus on the magazine. Paul reached for the long cord with the small button on the end. "Press it." He told her. The both held the button together as the morphine leaked into her.
"Then, we can get to the bible." He bit his lip and she smiled back at him as the medicine roll through her veins and rushed to her face and her eyelids grew heavy.
Paul looked over toward the front door for the nurse. He could still hear the heart rate machine beeping as the truck awaited before the ferry crossing. The truck's driver door appeared and then he heard Clovers and then the interstate flowing under. The sing head of him read in big white letters BAR HARBOR.
"I wonder if this harbor has a bar?" He said to clover and then crossed onto the ferry.
As he parked he closed his eyes and Sue's memory had faded.
Paul opened his eyes as Clovers licked him on the face.
He wasn't on the ferry any longer. It was the following morning and he was before a large beach.
A group of people were passing by holding hands in a long chain. Some had whistles and some blew them. "NICOLE. NICOOOOOLE." One would yell. "Nicoooooole." Another yelled. "NICOLE." Another. Then, Clover barked and yelped and jostled around the cab.
Paul tucked his mouth into the top of his sweater and breath out. There was strong whiskey odor. "Another night of forgets." He told clover as the dog eagerly watched the search team pass by.
"NICOLE." Another hollered out and a whistle blew.
The rescue team was growing strong. A helicopter was approaching from seaside and this brought Paul's attention to a miraculous sight. He had front row seats at the edge of the cliff inside the old Ford. So did Clover. Both gazing out with jaws loosely hanging. Paul and his dog, had mapmaker's view of Bar Harbor.
A flock of puissant kayakers passed by rowing and shifting side to side with powerful and swift dips from the aluminum poles and wood oars. Their neon maroon or sun yellow or forest green safety helmets and bright barn red and orange life preservers manumitted or fitted. The sway was playful but with incantation. Slapping, foamy waves which writhed from steep current pushed by the Atlantic's great ripples that once touched and stirred thousands of miles away which moved other doldrums or flows from the once subtropical gyre.
A net of Virdigris seaweed and as the salty ocean shoved it across the sandy silt and the maple tan beach nested it, Paul licked his lips and inhaled. There had to be over a hundred sail boats, and yachts and fishing boats hovering out the harbor. White sails flapped in the air as thick winds impatiently pushed.
"Look at that view, Clovers."
Clover turned his head and circled his head and then peered out at another search party member. "NICOLE."
"Their really lookin hard for that little girl aren't they Clove." Clove flopped his tongue to the side and continued panting.
"Lets get out and ask." Clover whimpered and then sat at attention.
Paul got out and approached one of the searchers. "Excuse me."
The search party member repeatedly blew her shiny whistle and kept heading in the same direction, toward the channeling ravine, as the other team members had vanished earlier.
"Where do you sign in to search for the missing girl?"
The lady with the bright ruby red jacket didn't hear Paul and continued onward, descended down a sloping rocky ravine. Her hair flagged in the wind and swarmed about as she sank.
"Can you hear me?" The lady was gone now and Paul stood there with Clover sniffing the ground.
"Come on Clove."
Paul was worried about the missing Nicole. But in the back of Paul's mind was the mystic power of the Mahon Flower. Somewhere near the lighthouse in a gated small garden was this mystical powerful flower. And he hoped to run across it. But the girl was the main concern now. Humans over flowers. The little girl's safety outweighed the mystery of healing powers.
Paul leaned over and led the dog back to the truck. "Time to get your leash." He had forgot and as he opened the front door a sharp pain shot from his forearm to his palm. And as he gripped the manubrium of the truck's door knob, an inner pulse in the base of his thumb electrified. It felt like a firecracker had gone off at the base of his thumb. He squeezed his hand and then gripped his forearm. He could hear the sounds of conveyor churning and the loud sssswhooosh. The mill was calling him from far off. He squeezed his fingers inward and made a tight fist and closed his eyes and then continued on. The pain wasn't going to stop him now. Paul had to fight it. Ssssswhooooosh. And he continued and the wind continued and as it cooled on his face the stormy winds were as helpful as any bandage.
The front door to the pickup's cab opened and he reached behind the front seat to retrieve Clover's leash. Next, he searched for the red tube of pain cream. He couldn't find it and wanted to locate a searcher.
Clover nibbled at the leash as he snapped him secure and prodding him to go ahead. Clover gave a good tug and the pain seem to diminish and Paul located his steady gait centering with the dog's even trot. A light house grew closer toward them and soon he be at the top of the Cove.
He was off toward the Lighthouse keeping an eye out on the inspiring view of Bar Harbor's rocky cliffs. His next stop was Acadia National Park.
Eventually after hour or so of searching Paul made his way back to the pickup. Clover looked thirsty.
The truck sat at the edge of the Rocky Cliff near the cove. The lighthouse casted it's shadow on them. Paul looked out as the foamy waves washed ashore. Clover looked at him with sad eyes and whimpered. Sadly Clover was. He always got this way when Paul had Sue on his mind.
One time Sue and Paul were driving down a long winding road in Sangerville during a rainstorm. Just a few years after their marriage and far before she was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer.
There it was. Introducing itself to Paul and Sue wiggling it's quills under the thunder and lightning. A soaked Porcupine wobbled across the road and he applied his breaks carefully and prepared to drive around the little critter.
"Look at that little buggah. Always just runnin out in the road."
The porcupine stopped in the middle of the street and as Paul started to drive around it the porcupine backed up and blocked him.
"LOOK AT THAT BUGGAH." Paul said and Sue began to laugh.
The porcupine continued off and Paul looked over at Sue.
"You know I love you Sue. I appreciate you coming into my life."
"I love you too." Lightning flashed and hard sheet of rain released from the sky and sprinkled every ounce of the car.
"Finally, that little buggah made it to safe ground."
"At least you let him cross." She said squeezing Paul's hand. Another lightning flash and the rain continued pelting. Paul pointed to the road and then shoved side handle into D.
"Thank God." Sue said.
"Did you know God spelled backwards is Dog. I've been thinking about that lately. I wonder if dogs are holy creatures."
"You can be so random Paul. What about porcupines?"
"Well, I haven't really had one as a pet. They would make an odd best friend."
"You fed Clovers before we left didn't ya."
"I love ya, dear."
"I love you too."
And the truck rolled faster and they drove toward home in the darkness smiling and thinking of Clovers and the porcupine and the rain and the lightning and the storm and the leaves that swirled and lifted and crunched as the speedy tires pressed over and it seemed a million of leaves laid in spotted splotches along the road and long streams of brown and light green jumped up over the bumper and sometimes spilled off the side of the windshield, swirling and making small twisting leaps like crumpled shredded brown paper sacks and thumping against the glass and the truck curved passed broken branches that blocked the road and rainwater cascaded across the glass and the wipers brushed it away and squealed and then. . .
Sue was gone. Clover sat up.
Clover reposition in the seat and looked over at passing inn and then oddly ducked down as Paul pulled neared a group of islanders unpacking there camping gear and refastening there sail boots to the back of their truck's. Paul had landed on the island now. And the dog seemed nervous. The side of the truck squeezed in near a long blue sailboat being pulled by a SUV. The dog was full of fear for some reason and kept his chin on the seat cover. A monster was sneering inside the passenger window.
"Nothing to worry about Clovers. Just kids at play."
He passed a sign that read Dead End Kids Playing and slowed the pickup.
The dog remained still and in his curled up position.
It was only the city life of the island out there. Strange islanders looking in.
"We may have to find a place that accepts pets."
Clover remained curled in a little furry ball and tucked his tail around his nose and shied away from the passing people and serious of seaside shops passing outside the window of the pickup.
"Sometimes being away from home takes time, Clovers."
He peered out at the vast blue rippling and giant undulating waves of the vast sea. "Look at that. That there is the Atlantic."
The truck was on a road the edged a long cliff overlooking the great sea.
And what a sight it was. Waves after waves undulated over the coral reefs, lifting, rising, swirling and crashing on the seaside and sandy beach below and the rocky walls angling below. A pile of forest pine green moss washed up and seaweed mixed in with ashen bark like dross. Then, a fishing boat with fisherman leaning over the railings reeling in thousands of deep red lobsters and other crustaceans. The sea was alive and the people around it reacting.
Another search party followed each other like hunting pigeons. Wabbling side to side, some with bulky flashlights with bulbous ends, and others with long walking sticks. There coats and sweaters, were bright and ever other searcher wearing rain coats or slickers full or array of neon stripes running down the sleeves. Another chopper flew passed and then trailed off until out of sight, easing down behind a ravine, but the blades still whispering erasing in the strong winds.
The new group of searchers arrived straggling behind, like a lost flock, but hollering a familiar name in a lifting gale, "NICOLE. NICOLE. NICOLE. . . ." And then the group scrimmaged onward continuing the hike near the cliffs and up and down the lifting stony paths.
Paul looked around and figured he should ask where to sign up again. But the stray searchers slipped down a ravine and must not of heard him. "Strangers shall fade way and they shall be afraid out of their close places." Paul calmed himself and avoided the hint of his temper or frustrations.
He got back in the pickup and opened the glove box to search for cell phone.
Another searcher trotted by with a long walking can twisted and banded with yarn like twine.
He rolled down his window, "Hey can you hear me?" No one replied. He got out of the pickup truck once again and walked to the edge of the cliff. A foghorn lifted and the steamy clouds parted and there in the blue waters far off, a lonely skiff, floating out further than the others, slowly rocking; alone.
A man in a tie dye T-shirt and tan baggy slacks and carrying wavy walking stick strutted up to Paul. Paul reminded himself of a passage in second Samuel, "Please be obedient unto me." He said so the stranger wouldn't hear. Then, Paul walked up closer as if a spell had consumed him.
"Can you tell me where Bass lighthouse is located?"
"Yer not too far. Are you part of the search team?"
"No. Not yet. But I thought I'd try another area. Uhm. Where is the place you sign up or do you have to?"
"You don't have to. But they do have equipment they are giving out that you can sign for like flashlights and walking sticks and fluorescent glow sticks. The search may go on through the night. If people are up to it."
"Hm. Am I close to Bass Harbor Head lighthouse?"
"Not too far." He pulled out a flimsy map and stretched it out and pointed his location and then to the lighthouse.
"Follow this path here. That should take ya." He twisted around and pointed to a rocky path.
"So just follow that there."
"Thanks." Paul said with his hand out. The searcher stood there oddly and looked at his hand and then shook it.
"Yep." And he was off back to the ravine the others had dipped down in.
Paul looked back at the truck. Clovers had both paws on the dash board and his tongue flapping out with droplets of spit raining down.
He returned back to the truck and let Clovers free and then hooked the collar securely.
Paul got Clover ready and tied him to the handle of his pickup and reached back in the glove box to remove an old wrist watch. He held to his ear and checked to see if it was ticking and saw that the little red hand was not rotating and fastened it to his wrist and began to wound the tiny knob. The bit hand was on the three and he found a chill run up his spine.
He checked the dashboard clock it read close to three thirty.
"We need to get a place soon Clover, before night falls."
Clover whimpered and ran around and tugged on the leash. He unhooked him and began walking up the rocky hill off the path. Tomorrow he would start on the path and keep an eye out for the lost girl.
Paul finally pulled into the parking lot to the motel. It was raining out now and he had to act fast, making sure Clover was well secure in the leash. He didn't need anything but the dog, his wallet and an umbrella to walk up to the front desk to check in.
"Do you have a room available for the night?"
"Uhhm." The hotel clerk badge read Mr. Mires, and his hair was newly trimmed as well as his fresh round face. He parted his hair and looked up with strict attention. Setting the phone receiver down, "Let me check the screen here. Uhm. Yep. We have one for this evening. I think the couple just checked out."
"I have Clovers."
"My dog. Do you take pets."
"We sure do."
"Thanks. I'll take it." Paul handed him the card.
"There is a ton of people out there looking for that poor little girl. Did you hear what happened?"
"Yep. A few people passed by ealier talking about her. Its tragic. I hope they find her. Uhm. . .I need you to sign right here." He pointed down at the receipt paper and Paul searched for a pen.
"Uhm. Do you have a pen?"
The clerk slid over a little black box with an led screen and his name printed above an digitized line. A round plastic shaped pen, with no sharp point, with ribbed ends, dangled on the end from a thick plastic wire. Paul picked it up and studied it's fancy grip edge, signed and looked back at the front patio where Clover remained tied to the base of a park bench. His tongue still flapping, smiling and gleaming little spitballs.
"Okay. I have somewhere I need to go. I wanted to get to Bass Harbor Head Light house. Do you know where it is?"
"Yep. I was once a guide around here. Old light house.""
"Goes back to eighteen fifty eight. Thirty two feet high. Fresnel. You have a gps?"
"I can get one. Why?"
"Well, I have coordinates right here. Let me look them up."
The clerk went over to a laptop setting on the side near the desk phone and opened it up and began typing. Paul waited patiently checking out the place and rack of travel brochures and various posters on the wall of lighthouses and fishing boats with overstuffed fishing nets bulging with bright red lobsters. Just in the center was a daily calendar marked with various times of the day and slanted lines drawn with a red sharpie and above in a illustrious outlined box, a color glossy photo of a rustic anchor splashing into stormy seawaters skipping off the salt waters and trailed by a thick three strand, knotted oak colored hawser. And next to that a blue and white road sign that read WELCOME TO MAINE and in quotes, "The Way Life Should Be." And the various advertisement for restaurants, scattered brochures next to a flimsy aluminum rack about chest high.
"Is it off a street near here?" Paul asked aligning the electronic box back to original spot on the counter.
"Yep. Just down the Lighthouse road. Harbor drive will turn into it Lighthouse. Just following it down. When the road ends you may have to walk a bit. To the left of the road facing seaside."
"I appreciate it, Mr. Mires."
"Yep. And I got you in our system for check in tonight."
Mr. Mires closed the laptop.
"Once again, thanks."
Paul walked out and unhooked the Clovers and lead him to the pickup and opened it.
"Will, get to watch some HBO boxing later tonight, Clovers. Hopefully, crack open a new castle and I can scratch this Roads to Riches. For now its seaside."
Paul stepped on the gas and he and the dog were rumbling down Roadhouse in search of this strange Mahon flower.
"Once we get there Clovers keep yer eyes peeled. Remember ivory pedals with purple yellowy center."
Clovers put his paw on Paul's shoulder and Paul honked the horn and rolled the window out waving wildly, as he passed a group of hikers. They waved back with their bulky backpacks and colorful rain jackets.
"I guess the rescue team didn't make it down this far. They looked like hikers, Clovers." Clover whimpered back and Paul kept the truck guided straight and true down narrow road.
"We should be there in a jiffy, ol boy." Paul said gripping Clovers jaw shut in a playful handshake. Clover broke free and kept glued to the passenger window as another group of hikers trailed toward seaside. The rain let down a bit and only sporadic drops hit the windshield in sharp splashes, tapping away like a jazz bongo player.
Paul whistled away as the truck puttered along and reached out for the radio knob until he saw the vast ocean rise before him. It was awe inspiring and he gripped both ends of the steering wheel and felt the static sting zip back under the trimmed fingernails from years of picking at the dowels at work. It thinned the end of the fingers. Worn them.
He drove on anyways, stirring and ignoring the sting in his fingers and then felt the cramp start up in his forearm.
"Damn heck of a site." Paul said leaning over toward Clovers and Clover leaning in.
Clover licked his lips now dry and wavered his head. Paul grew closer to the shoreline and the sound of the misty waves crashing and sizzling began to ooze into the pickup's cab.
Finally, he was there. A long narrow ship, painted light blue and white, with four hefty sails and three narrower ones out ahead, slowly skimmed the water, leaving a fork of foam and undulated breaking waves.
Paul pulled the truck over and got out, leaving Clovers tumbling his paws on the seat cover again.
"Its okay boy. Just give me a minute."
Paul figured he was going to walk right up to the rock garden that Mr. Mueng had talked of. No where in site he could find it. He looked up the long angling edge of the cliff and saw nothing near what could have been a private little hideaway for such a gentle small piece of life. No place anywhere. No sign of a flower. No Mahon. Not yet.
He walked further down and the sun was still had some space before setting before the horizon and the clouds were gathering up in small bolls in the side of the sky.
Rain most likely. He thought and kept walking on the edge of the rocky cliff and was hypnotically drawn by the shear drop and the crashing thunderous waves below.
A small downpour fell in the far horizon. Paul could tell by the black cloud and the thickness and wall widening of mist and silvery steam.
"Could be a storm brewing." He said to himself against the cool gale tipping his hair back. A pool of rain like dominoes swayed back and forth and above a strip of bright fiery steel spun out and down and up and then forked and then the clap of thunder. He could tell it was a wild fall sheet of rain falling, even from the shore miles away and the thunder sent chills around the back of his neck and into his burning shoulder.
Paul ran his fingers through his soft white hair and was surprised he had forgotten his ball cap.
"We won't be searching long, Clovers."
He headed back to the truck and the dog waited with wide eyes.
"Come er Mutt."
He looked up with water in his eyes, salivating.
"Must be hungry by now, huh Cloves." The old man flipped back the seat and wrapped his hand around a large plastic zip lock baggie. It was full of bowtie shape dog biscuits.
"I'll bring em with ya."
Clovers hit all fours and stood erect at attention, his eyes reflecting back the now gathering grey clouds.
"You don't mind getting a little wet behind those ears do ya." He said to the dog. Clover shooed his tail like flyswatter and cocked his head to the side.
"Come on boy." And the dog jumped from the cabin seat of the pickup and landed on his front paws curled a bit and then gripped his back claws grounding himself steady.
Paul fitted the leash and led him out toward the edge of the cliff.
The search went on for a few hours. And every time Paul looked out over the vast sea, the wall of storm was stepping closer across the growing rough waters. There was no sign of a rock garden and most of the trails just faded off, ending at the beach, or along a rocky wall and then ending by a thin grassy field that slowly mixed into mess of tall brown weeds, splotches of silt which eventually bled into thick beach sand.
A lady stepped up the side of the rocky edge holding a twisted walking cane and hauling a bright red hefty hiking pack. She had charcoal colored henna on her forehead and cheeks and a silver ball stud in her bottom lip and a silver nose ring. She was no older then early twenties and she traveled alone.
"Good day, Sir." She said politely exposing a white and well brushed smile.
"How are ya, young lady?" Paul said looking down with shyness.
Investigating the steep ravine and choppy foot trail, Paul warmed by kneeling down to Clovers and petting him.
"Long climb down." She said. Paul could smell the aromatic herbs in her hair and the Patchouli and sage she must have had in her backpack. She knelt down with him.
"This is such a pretty dog. What kind?
"Its just a mutt. Half breed husky and black lap."
She looked at Clovers long pointy shaking tail and deep dark opaque furry hide and watch him mutter around and bow for her attention and touch.
"It's a he, right?" She asked biting her lip and hanging her head back getting a better look.
"What's his name?"
"Clover. Like a four leave clover."
"Actually I named him after a shampoo I bathed him in when he was a pup. Probably the first bath he had coming into this world. Besides the one his momma gave him." Paul said reaching for his hat and realizing it was gone.
"He is a pretty dog." She patted Clove on the forehead and he lifted his nose at her whining for more.
Lightning shattered on the horizon silently and then after a few breaths a low grumble washed over them.
It began to mist and the young lady adjusted her back strapping it firmly to her.
"Well. It was nice meeting ya. I'm Susan. But everyone calls me Sue."
"Sue. Huh. I knew a lady with the exact same name. She was very special person to me." Paul reached for his hat again and then brushed his short bangs to the side. He was getting nervous.
"Really." She said hopping a beat to reset the pack.
"Your not going down there now are ya?"
"Well. Me and Clover wanted to check out that little beach area and I wanted get a good walk in for the day."
"It's a hard climb down and pretty tough back up. Maybe you should try it in better weather."
"Thanks. But me and Clover don't mind the rain."
"Are ya from Bar Harbor?"
"No. Monson. And you."
"I'm from upstate New York. Just on vacation. This is my second time here. I usually go with friends, but I came alone this time." She twisted the back to the side revealing a thin slick flat device with a short lens.
"Brought the trusty Nikon."
Paul looked down at her painted toenails and hair rope sandals. She wiggled her toes and especially lifting and stretched her big toes and then looked up.
"Sir. I din't catch yer name?"
"Oh. Right. I'm Paul." He reached out and shook his hand.
"And this is Clover." She reached her hand out and Clover stuck his paw out and she shook it.
"Very charming. You don't mind if I take yer photos do ya."
"Oh. No. Not at all."
"Can I get Clover in it too?"
"Sure. Sure. No problem." Paul knelt down and gave his best smug smile.
"One, two and . . ." She steadied the camera and pressed it stealthfully. "Three." The camera hissed and flashed.
"One more time with the flash off."
Paul merged his face with Clovers and Clover began licking him wildly.
"Perfect." She said and then tucked the camera to her side.
"Well. I'm off. Thanks again, Paul and Clover. And be careful."
"Yep." Paul said reaching for his invisible hat again.
She waved and then planted her walking cane into the ground and move on.
Paul began his descent.
"OH. I FORGOT TO TELL YA." She came closer.
"What is yer email so I can send you a shot."
"Oh. That's okay. Keep for yourself. Just frame it and keep it in your office."
"Oh. Okay. You sure."
"Yeah. I got plenty of photos of Clover and me."
She turned and made her way back to the trail that lead to higher ground. Paul took a few more steps downward with the dog right on his heels.
In Paul's mind he'd be at the bottom of the rocky cliff with Clovers and they search up and down the beach scanning the edges of the Lighthouse rock walls and try to get a different angle on where this mysterious flower could be.
But what Paul didn't know was that the cliffs and beaches he would soon hike over was once never there. The sand wasn't there. The cliffs neither. The lighthouse which looked plain as day was once never really there. It never existed. Not in that exact spot. Not where he was looking. Imagine the sand as a slow moving conveyor belt. A conveyor that moved the sand only a short distance over hundreds of years. The sand has ways of shifting rocks and cliffs and grassy patches. The beach would take centuries to move a great amount, but all of what Paul was currently walking on now, was once flowing salt water.
As each wave crashes, or gently presses against the beach face so does energy and this shapes the inclination from a few degrees to as much as several feet or more. And as that wave ripple and oscillate and undulate against the others and cross ripples align symmetric or asymmetric so does the force against the edges of the beach which pushes silt, depending on the backwash, a crest forms.
The beautiful little beach he and Clover was about to set foot on and stroll, was once where the ocean was now. It took hundred, or even thousands of years, but the island was actually moving. And as new waves arrived and sand was pushed, and so, in a very microscopic fashion, was the cliffs and land above.
Everything was slightly moving. Nothing stood in one spot forever.
"We are travelers today, Clovers."
Paul lead Clover down to the edge of the beach and since, the storm was still miles out to see, Paul decided to take his boots off and prance around in the crashing waves. He looked out and saw a pup seal duck under the water and beyond that a few ocean kayakers paddling with the current.
Paul let the ocean water sting against his toes and Clover click clogged along, splashing a white trail of watery cotton puffs of ocean spilling about.
"It's the ocean boy." Paul cheered and was happy to me alive and dancing on the sand.
After walking along the rocky cliffs he noticed a trail leading to the edge and above were a set of dandelions. He made his way up the steep trail to see if a rock garden was anywhere in sight. "Lets try up there Clover." He told the dog once more.
There was not a colorful flower like Moon had described and no signs of rock garden. He was far enough from the lighthouse now. Every time he looked up to keep track of his distance from the pickup, the light house seemed like a mere toy on the horizon.
"Lets get back to the beach, Clove." He said aloud as the dog slurped away at a pebble infested mud puddle of gathered rainwater.
The sun was mostly covered by low passing clouds that late afternoon. Now and then, a cloud would agape and the sun would shine through and over Paul's crouching body and Clover at his heels. Paul noticed his watery shadow in the cracks and crevices of the ravine he was working down. He found a rocky foot path and stuck to it firmly. At times it looked as though a part of him was climbing and at times slithering and breaking apart and then back together again. Falling apart and forming like the waves. He watched his shadow outline and dance around the rock step path like the waves far below. "Be there soon, Clovers."
Paul unhooked Clovers and let him splash in the incoming waves.
And sooner or later he made his way to the beach, dipped his feet in the ocean while eyeing a far off yacht motoring into the sizzling, choppy water.
Paul unhooked Clovers and let him splash into the arriving waves. He ran out and began dog peddling for a good stretch and then returned drenched.
"Now you're a wet mangy son of gun." Paul shook his fur and loosened some of the salt water. Clover huffed and snorted.
Paul boots, about ankle deep, became drenched in water. The evening tide was teasing.
"Tide will be coming soon."
Clover began barking at the cliff behind him. "What is it boy?" Clover ran up to the rock wall and began barking fiercely.
"What are you barking at Clover? Calm down."
It as if the wall had come alive and stood up to be a titan. But nothing was there. "What are you barking at boy?" Paul walked up closer to the dog. "Eeeeeeeeerrrrrr."
The dog kept barking. "What the heck are ya barking at?"
That's when he saw it.
When a beach is under pressure of the waves for centuries and centuries, and even millenniums, eventually the tides, because of the water's acidity, begin to act like a giant rock knife. After storms and hurricanes arrive and afflict there damages, like an enormous diamond headed jackhammer that never ceases, but constantly plowing away at the rocky cliffs, the island mutates. And in some cases ravines are formed. And in other cases, the beach is lost, or recedes, or the crest is changed. A salt water marsh rises. And sometimes dunes are born. The withering and the power of the winds, rain and storms shape the island for a million different reasons and in during a million different seasons. And every form on an island has it's purpose. Everything on the island is there at that particular moment for it's shape and form and structure. Just like an single cell organism is affected by another so is an island by it's inhabits. Darwin knew this about islands. Christopher Columbus mapped many. The Vikings landed, traded and plundered. Now, Paul was barefoot and walking his dog on one.
And he had just walked over a billion grains of sand.
And after passing all of this oceanic wonder and differences of the main land, he never once question it. He was alive now. Alive in it. Living the moment. Detached from Havenwood and from Sue. Just a man and his dog, enjoying the island.
There where caves before him, but no real reason to see them now. Now, he wanted to be on the edge of the beach and taste the salt water on his tongue and breath in the freshness of the Atlantic.
Paul notices a few black holes in the rocky cliffs and then eyed the edges of them. Possibly the flower could be there.
The powers of weather slowly wither away cliffs and rock walls, season after season, until sometimes, if the balance is right, a simple cave arrives.
There was a small crevice and wet sandy path leading inside a crevice path. Paul never noticed it. And at the end of the crevice pathway, was a dark opening.
The dog kept barking.
"That might be a cave, boy." Paul said kneeling down to rub the dog under the throat and then scratching his prostemum. The darkness inside pulled on him.
The dog was low now. Low to the ground with his tail between his legs, dipping and lowering full of energy like coiled spring about to pop. Paul went over to investigate. Clover was still as a stone now. Paul slowly walked over to the dog. Pet him between the ears and on the edge of the nose and then tried calming by circling the little bump at the tip of the crown of this head, where the Occiput lies.
Something fluttered out of the mouth of the cave and Clover barked and began prancing on his pads like a pony on the sand.
Part of Paul wanted to investigate the strange opening in the rock but the fluttering birdlike creature filled him with tingles. He snapped the leash onto the dog and lead him down the narrow pathway to the darkness ahead. He was beginning to become tense too.
There before the entrance was a billowing spider web, cottony and waving nearly acting as a lee. Paul stopped and looked for it's maker. Swaying like a stringy white parachute, it hung. The spider had done a masterful job, leaving an opening around the center of it's orb like silky net, so the wind wouldn't take it complete. Then, it blew back and returned.
Paul thought of a fisherman's net as he looked at the triangular shapes stringing within the web's masterful design.
"Duck under boy." The two ducked under the web, and entered into the dark cave.
"We can't go far. The flashlights in the pickup."
Clover stuck his wet nose to the ground and began sniffing around like some old housewife's vacuum cleaner. He puttered along the incoming tide that washed all the way to the rocks leading to the flinty pathway and finally, with ears up, made notice to the mouth of the cave. Paul figured it was time to explore.
"Come on boy. Lets go inside."
The mouth of the cave was low to the ground and Clover had no problem crawling on his belly to get in. Paul hunkered down low, immediately filling his boots and white thermal socks full of salt water. The tide was coming in. There he arrived, on his knees now, in the tiny channel, crawling like some seawater snake, and a fiery pain in his lumbar region burned up. His head fell downward, and he reached back to massage wishing so badly for the muscle rub.
"Damn it boy, I'm old."
He remained low to the ground and eventually became like the dog, scrapping his ribs and torso on the jagged corral reef before the shadowy entrance. The place that lay in the stream was wet and boggy and the sand like fresh clay putty.
He wiggled under the cave entrance and as he looked up, with saltwater dripping from his chin, there before him, was a shaft of light. And at the end of the light was white curved ivory. Paul, now on lifting off his gut, and onto his knees, was inside the darkness of the cave. The only light, coming from a opening from above. A sink hole must of formed, must likely before his birth, and it was perfectly round and spherically, and the sunlight gleamed in freely.
"Looks like nature will provide as a flashlight this evening, Clovers."
The cave wasn't large at all. The walls were rounded and curved inward and the entire rocky room supported by an alluvial floor.
There at the end of the shaft of light, was a skeleton ribcage, which at first seemed human.
Paul walked closer and Clove sniffing the ground behind him. It was not human. The ribs where round and petite like the size of average dog and the facial bones and skull resembled that of a dogs.
"Must be a seal pup." Paul said. "A dead one at that."
He looked down at the sharp white and noticed some of the bones had been eating away by the salt water.
"The oceans eating away at her." Paul said to the bones. Clovers hovered over them, smelling the ribcage and then the skull and back to the ribs. Again he did this over and over again like some highly trained detective.
"Shark. Maybe killer whale. Or just got too weak. The sea is a challenging place to leave Clover. Lucky yer a dawg."
Clover looked up at him as if to agree and then back to the bones sniffing away.
A cold September chill blew in and Paul looked around the edges of the shaft and then deeper into the corners of the cave. Where the shaft of light could not reach. Places musty and untouched by the water.
A single dark shadow appeared and he stumbled and froze. Only an echoing click of his last step arose and dissipated. Before him, reaching upward was a ten feet stalagmite. For a second it was in motion growing before him. He realized that it was just build up on limestone. A mineralized dripping and ousting of calcium carbonate. As he balanced on the stone below him, his shoulder swung and a thin beam of light funneled over his neck, exposing the arciform fingerlike spire. It jutted upward from the floor's cave, as the hint of the shaft's light wavered as he fell into motion and his next stepped fumbled secure. There above him in the opposite direction dead stone dripping, a stalactite. The next step arrived and he crossed more dark stones under him and ducked under the dripstone.
The speleothems crept him. How they snuck up on him in the shadows.
Paul turned back to the shaft. Letting the little light he had guide him. There it was again. Pointing upward like a long witchery finger luring him. Calling him. Reaching the fear in him. He moved around its pointy sprouting end and continued onward. There was a fluttering sound and he jolted. He spied upward awaiting the black ball of flapping furry to calm. The webby bird dipped and smoothily gliding and flapped back upside down. The air filled sour. The bat droppings appeared in the shaft of light over the green aqua blue puddle. Or perhaps acidity drops stinging the ground. It's ammonia slim or smelly grit oozed, toxic pellet falling near his head. He dodged and kept his eyes even set and when the slime spilled, the eye would follow. The pupils expanding as the cave grew darker and then droppings downward and speckled light rolling upward.
In the far corner something stole his attention. It was a flowstone. A small trickling stream evenly draining toward him. The droplet shattered in shiny mirroring speckles all over the ceiling of the cave. Showering sparkling spots silvery arose, sparkling stream gushing outward and Paul slowly skipped stone to stone. "Hello." "Hello." His echo returned, "Helloooo. Oh. Oh."
"Who goes there?" and it returned once more. "Goes theeeeree. Eerr."
Clover barked and his sound returned. Then, sometime grabbed his attention. In the shadow his face was lupine. He groweled and the echo returned, errrrrrrr.
"What is it boy?" And the echo backed. "Boah. . ."
It was a vast dropping noise in a puddle somewhere in the darkness of the cave. The echoing drop repeated itself steady and Paul figured it was water dropping seeping in from the rain above.
The steady dropping sound turned into a electrical pulse.
"Sue." Paul was no longer in the cave. The dark floor below him and the stone below, turned into a bright white linen sheet and he could see Sue's golden band and her fingers hooked into the sheet. She was in pain. A tube ran into her arm.
Paul was dressed like always. Simple light blue plain T-shirt with a thermal long john top underneath, sleeves pulled to the elbows and withered blue jeans and tan work boots double tied in little knotted bows.
Paul was sitting close. In that stiff hospital room, the smell of rubbing alcohol still strong in the air.
He breathed in listening to the wind whistle in his nostrils. "Sue. What am I going to do with you?"
"I'm dying Paul. We can't do a hell of a lot."
"I was reading in this magazine here. In this psychoanalytical today. . ."
Paul turned the magazine over and shook it straight.
"Aaaah. What is it called again? Oh, Psychology Today. Anyways there is this Sigmund Freud article called Libidinal Types. He said as the magazine crumbled in his hand. He tried to keep a straight face.
"Oh, Paul. When did you become the great scholar?"
"I've been reading this magazine like crazy lately."
"What happen to the bible? I thought you were still working on perfecting Songs of Salomon?"
"I am. I am. But they get addictive."
Sue laughed and then clinched at her stomach.
"God why does it always hurt when you laugh."
"Ironic it does huh?"
"Is that irony, Paul."
"I guess it is."
"So your going to explain an article by Sigmund Freud to me called, what?"
"Libidinal Types. It says it was published in nineteen thirty two."
"Oh, that stuff's silly, Paul."
"Yeah but let me ask you something. He states there are three types of libidos. First, the erotic. Then, obsessional. And third the Narcissistic."
"So which am I?"
"You want me to answer this on my deathbed?" She said trying not to laugh. Her smile still had strength in it. Still had life in it. There was life still in her. Paul continued probing.
"Well, explain em to me?" She said playfully, waving her palm in the air.
"Okay. The erotic is closer to the id. You know what the id is right?"
"Yeah. That selfish side in us that's like a little child. Always saying feed me, feed me. Over and over again."
"I like the description. The id wants the pizza. The ego calls the pizza place. And the superego feels bad about eating too much of it."
"Hah." She smiled. "I may finally get hungry with all this nausea going on."
"Right. Let me know and I'll drive down to Bangor and pick up some Spankys."
"Right. So anyways, the erotic lover's 'main interest is love.' And they are 'governed by the dread of loss of love' This type 'claims the id.'"
He looked up with serious eyes. The next type of called the Obsessional libido. The have a 'conservative spirit'. It says these types, "they exhibit, we might say, an inner instead of an outer dependence. Freud believes they are, "from social standpoint they are the true upholders of civilization." They are self reliant. The focus on internal rather than outer dependence."
"Oh. Paul. Next thing your gonna ask me about my mother?"
"This is what Freud said. Come on." Paul grabbed her hand and squeezed it.
"The third one is narcissistic. They have no tension between the ego and super-ego. They are the personalities of the world. They merely concerned with being loved. He states these types are the leaders of society."
"What does this have to do with anything, Paul?"
"Well, I get bored here all day sometimes. You sleep a bunch."
"I'm sick Paul. Dying, remember." She adjusted the tube leading into her arm. Paul put the Psychology Today down and gently squeezed her fingers. Then, he caressed her cheeks and then felt both sides of her cheekbones and then her eyebrows.
"What are you doing, Paul?"
"I want to remember you, Sue."
"You'll remember me."
"It makes me mad."
"Don't be mad."
"What am I going to do?" Paul was trying not to cry.
"You'll just keep living."
"I know that, Sue. But without you."
"Paul." She squinted her eyes and gave him one long serious look, like a teacher would after a student had asked a heartfelt question. And like a teacher she answered him with a serious tone.
"Without you. Stop all that. You can't always have me, Paul."
"But life. Without you." He grabbed her hand now squeezing it with seriousness.
"What makes you happy, Paul?"
"What makes me happy. You. You and us. Clover and you and us. Living together. Spending time in the garden. Watching TV together and sharing time together. Walking Clover. The beach. Going to Peaks Kenny. How will I do all this with out you. The world won't really be there. It'll be just me and the dog."
"What makes you happy, Paul?"
"I answered that with somewhat detail, Sue."
"What makes you happy, Paul?"
"You. Us. Being together."
She looked away and rolled her eyes and then inhaled her lungs full. She started to cough and then held her stomach and sat up.
"I'm not the one that will always make you happy, Chuck."
She wiped her mouth and rubbed the spit onto the edge the side of her cottony gown's collar.
"I'm looking for an answer from you Paul."
"Let see. You make me happy. The dog. And, oh, yes. Jesus."
The cave's wall was solid black and not even the shadows could be seen. Paul could still hear the dripping from the flowstone and here Clovers splashing around in the puddle.
He wanted to turn back toward the opening and the shaft of light, but the darkness called his attention. It drew him in. He was frozenly motionless, washed away and kept still.
Clovers circled him sniffing at the gathered waters flowing throw the stepping stones he had used to get this deep into the cave. He could hear his breathing noticing it's steady inhale and long exhale. Sweat amounted in droplets on his brow. He reached up and wiped the dampness away. Clovers stopped and listened. Something else was thumping besides the droplets from the flowstone and the watery whistling and the stream flowing.
"What is it boy." His voice was nearly thundering now.
Clovers was perfectly still. There was something else inside the cave. Paul didn't make a sound and waited.
He waited and waited and nothing answered back.
"Hello?" this time there was no echo. His voice was weak.
No sound. No light. Nothing but a soundless reminder.
Then, the thumping started up.
His ears began to slowly throb. But he could distinctively hear it. Thump. Thump. Thump.
"Shhhh." He said to the dog. Clovers hadn't moved yet.
The darkness changed to the a flash and then Sue's face appeared and the hospital room and he was back with her.
The thumping had changed. Now it was the heart monitor. It pulsated and sent out it's electronic thump.
"Its not me, Paul. Its not me that will make you happy."
"God is the one."
The hospital room grew perfectly still and silent. Rain clouds outside had amounted and the day had been gray most the day that solemn day. Sue was growing near the end.
The electronic pulsing flickered away and a then a small gush of air gently tickled the curtains. They rose and fell back. Rose and fell back. The silence seem to last forever.
Sue was still now. Her face whiter than before. Paul wiped the water from his eyes. He stared at her still body. Her eyes were closed. He had never seen so still. Her chest barely rose up and down. She was barely breathing. For awhile he became full of fear and then closed his eyes.
"You know what God is spelled backwards?"
Sue was still and then he heard her take a deep breath.
"Cat." Sue joked. Her voice was raspy. Eyes fully opened.
"hm." Paul smiled back at her.
"They wouldn't let Clover in. Not even after I offered the nurse at the desk a Benjamin Franklin."
"Oh, Paul. Clover doesn't need to see me like this. That ol' dog. I'll miss you guys." She smiled at Paul. Even though her lips were cracked and lined with age and sickness, Paul still saw the beauty in her. The beauty God allowed her to see. The beauty God allows all husbands to see in their lives.
"Your still so beautiful Sue. Even on yer death bed. Still such a knockout."
"Stop it. Paul." A hint of blush filled her pale thin cheeks. She had grew sicker since the last visit and was falling fast.
"Read me the passage you found ealier." She said her voice now weak.
"Okay hang on." Paul picked up the bible and thumbed threw the back were the bookmarker rested.
"Here it is." Paul sat with the scripture open on his lap and patted the front of his T-shirt and stuck in his fingers in the shirt pocket. "Where are my glasses? Every single time I need them they come up missing." He looked over at the table the magazines rested near the foot of the hospital bed.
"Ieeee." Sue grunted in pain.
"What is it."
"I think I'm gonna need the button."
Paul quickly grabbed the long plastic chord and reeled it up and handed the off white-ivory smooth PCA's handle end which smoothly fitted into her open palm. Press Button Here, in little black letter over the indention on the plastic caught his eye.
"Press away." He told her smiling covering her tiny knuckles and closing her hand around the handle of the PCA. Together they made one large hand gripping an object that would soon hide the harshness of dying.
"This pain is for the birds, Sue."
"Just read to me, Paul." She coughed and leaned upward. Then, they pressed the button together.
She leaned back into the puffy pillow and sank.
Paul leaned back too, now sitting beside her on the edge of the bed with the bible's pages hanging over his knee.
He took a moment and then picked up the black bible entitled King James Holly Bible and began to read with a steady and sure voice.
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful."
"He will make all things new, Paul."
"That is why he'll come, Sue. For us. For you. For all of his children."
Sue reached up and covered Paul's eyes.
"Picture us together. Together in paradise."
She closed her eyes too. Both of them imagined heaven together. Paul saw a long beach and Sue walked barefoot and Clover pranced behind them. Sue pictured a long wooden trail with flowers of honeydew and Lavender blush peddles and bright ruby red peddles and forest green stems and giant towering oak trees with upturn twisting knotted roots, and it smelled like thyme and vanilla and rich spices and everywhere there was brightness and sunlight shinning away and chirping birds and runaway squirrels and dancing deer leaping about, and there was Ol' Clover trailing behind, with tongue out, wagging tail, sniffing the ground like that ol' Hoover, happy as he could be. She kept her eyes closed and the stormy clouds that had been growing all day, separated for moment and the light in the room grew brighter. They both remained holding hands over death's bed, smiling and conquering.
The sound of waves woke him from his dream. He was still in the darkness of the cave. Now, twisting toward the light and rising to his feet. Clover was right there with him, panting. Paul decided it was time to go but something in the corner of the shaft of light caught his eye. It was a charcoal colored rock.
"Hm." He said scratching his head. "Hang on Clove." He said to the dog and found a few jagged rocks to get a good footing and decided to cross over the watery sand at the bottom of the cave. He made his way to the rock and then squatted down, now the pain shooting up his back and into his shoulder. Breathing out fiercely he picked the dark rock up. Sea water had amounted on the bottom, and he dried it off on his jeans.
He lifted up on his tippy toes and began to mark on the wall.
It took him some time, and a gush of wind picked up and chilled his back and the sweat that had gathered was chilled and supplied coolness and this calmed him. He drew the lines and took his times to form the words slowly with the bladed in of the rock. Then, he dropped the rock and it splashed in the shallow stream below leading into a smaller cave.
"Lets go Clove." After the words had been written on the cave wall, he lead the dog outward, getting crawling out on his belly, like the dog.
The sunlight spilled on his face and warmed him. It seemed like days since had seen the sun. The bright fiery glow was finally free of the dark rain clouds and the ocean sparkled diamonds and the choppy waters was calmer then before. It was as if a story was unfolding. A story that juxtaposed Sue's death. A new beginning.
"It's a new day, Clover."
Paul and Clover followed there footprints in the sand, until they found the climbing trial that lead back to the ol' pickup.
"HBO Boxing, scratch offs and maybe I'll get a New Castle and get you a new pig ear too. Well have no more of that hard liquor stuff. Howabout ol' Clovers." The dog answered with a whimper flopping his tongue out and bright eyes and they both made there way to the top of the cliff. It didn't take as long as he thought to get back to the truck and it was no time til both, man and his best friend, where back on Lighthouse Road heading to the inn to watch HBO. He didn't look for the flower. He had searched all day and it was time to let it go for at least the time being.
Pain wasn't on his mind near as much as when he crossed on the ferry. But he still felt the heavy pressure and the throbbing in the lumbar region of his back and on his sides, now like fire.
"How bout yer favorite Clover. We'll stop up here at this gas station and I'll get another Road to Riches and New Castle and getcha a pigear and how bout one of them dog treats. Sometimes they have em. If not, I'll look for em tomorrow when we go looking for this strange flower. This Mohon."
Just then he passed a floppy poster that was hand written, Search Party Sign UP. Pull in here.
And there was a rest stop and small crowd of people with hiking gear and backpacks and flashlights in hand. All waiting in a few lines with tables.
"Looks like they have a big turnout." Paul petted Clover on the head and lifted his blinker switch. The lines were short and drove up and stopped and opened the glove department.
"Lets see we're we are."
A lady with long blond hair flowing behind, and dark blue eyes and a Facenorth black down ski jacket and tight blue jeans walked over to his side of the window. She waved a red and orange hefty duty flashlight that was now flashing hazards.
"Pull in over here sir." She said and Paul rolled the window down.
"Is this where you sign in."
"For Nicole, right?"
"Yep. Are you relatives are friends of the family."
"Nope. From out of town. Read about the search in the paper. Clover and I want ta sign up." Paul jokingly grinned and she grinned back and waved the light over to the table.
"You can park here sweaty and you in the dog can sign in over there. Is he a rescue dog?"
"Ahhh. No. He's just trained to be a good pet and he works hard at that. But he is good a finding stuff. He found a missing pair of socks behind the dryer just the other day didn't Clovers." Clover answered with a low moan and kept his tongue flagging prideful.
"Yep. That's fine. Just sign in over there please and we'll need proof of ID if you have it. You don't have to give it to us, but we are trying to make sure everyone that is looking is accounted for."
"No problem got mine right here."
"Yep. Okay. We are glad to have ya. My name is Michele and I'm one of coordinators for the rescue team."
"I see you got the map out. Are you trying to locate a destination on the island?"
"Well. I'm looking for Clovers and I motel room for the night. I've already checked in."
"What's the name of the place."
"Oh, I'll find it later. Don't worry.
Paul got out and left Clover inside, and patiently waited behind a few hikers and then when his turn came he showed a credit card which had a ID photo of him on top corner and then gave them his full name and e-mail, which he rarely used.
"Thanks sir. We are having a search party go out tonight accompanied by the police. Tomorrow starts at the break of dawn."
"What time is that?"
"Oh. Well. I need to check into my motel tonight. So, Clover and I will be here in the morning."
"If it's a rescue dog we will need to register him in the book."
"No. He's just a plan ol dog. Just a mutt. But he is good a finding things. I can go get him if you want to stamp he's paw or take his photo."
"No. Just be sure to keep him on a leash. Okay."
"Sure." Paul headed back to the truck.
"Oh, one more thing sir. Your card."
"Oh. Yeah. Glad you tole me about that."
Paul hopped back into the pick up and turned the highbeams on. Just then, a man pulled up on a mountain bike with long black hair and an emerald spongy scrunchy holding his ponytail stiff.
From the back it looked like Dr. Mueng. He hopped off the bike and walked over to one of the lines.
Paul rolled down the window, "Moon." He said. "Hey Moon." No one replied and then the man walked over and began talking to some paramedic lady and then vanished into a white van.
"I wonder if that was Moon." Paul said to Clovers starting up the pickup. The blues filled the cabin.
My Dog Can't Bark by Muddy Waters was on. The harmonica was whining and carrying on and Waters yelled out, "People are talking about me and you. . .and done got tired I'm talk some too." The song kept playing and Paul hummed along and Clover stood up tall and looked at the passing cars and people with flashlights and cars parked with hazards on and the seaside town passing by, which now entering a small low breezy fog, and a line of pines and a few splotches of rising and falling bushes and oaks, looked like Christmas lights dangling from a tree.
The white van rolled onto the road and speed away up a winding road edging the cliff.
The sun was on its way down now and Paul finally found the entrance of the motel inn.
He had a few things on his mind on the way back. He had seen someone like Moon come into work one night when a machine near the debarker was being worked on. He had long black hair, with a pony tail and wrapped in a the same type of spongy scruncy sometimes, but he always had a wielder masks or he was wearing safety sunglasses. Even at night he wore them walking in the place. Paul figured it made sense for a welder to carry around sunglasses, but the man never showed his entire face and he did look a lot like Mr. Mueng.
He walked into the front lobby and checked in and when he passed the brochure counter there was a beautiful advertisement for The Hudson Valley Resort. Underneath in green letters A Victorian Castle built on the spectacular cliffs above the deep blue waters of Lake Mohonk.
There was that word again. Paul thought. Mohon. . .but Mohonk. Its like Mahon. Moho. . .Mohon. . .Mohonk. Pual went over the word in his head and silently mouthed it. Mohonk Lake. He read more of the brochure and read: Just named #2 Resort Spa in the United States. Conde' Nast Traveler Magazine 2012.
"Hm. Maybe we should go there sometimes, Clover." He said to the dog, as Clover lead the way down the hall.
Sue had entered his mind again as Clove walked before him down the long hallway, with little candlelight electric lamps spaced between each motel room.
This reminded him of their first Honeymoon. A small little place like this. Some island far out in the sea. "I remember this." Paul said aloud. Saint Martin. Oh, Yes. I would sneak out of my room and to the bar and bring back one of those tropical mixed drinks with the long straw and the plastic pick with melon fruit on it. What was that drink called? Sue starred back at him with glassy eyes. They had been up all night. Oh, and I get some chocolates for you. Sue. Sue can you hear me, Sue. And then, we sneak into the sauna and snuggle in the warm water and bubbles.
Paul was now laying on the bed with Clovers beside him and the motels small TV blaring HBO sports.
"Its not boxing, Clovers. But they have something call UFC."
Paul watched the two stocky ripped men in spandex shorts and muscles shirts that read Tap Out and MMA, lock arms and toss each other around like ragdolls, if such were made of titanium. One guy choked another and the other man spun around flailing his feet about. The fight exhausted itself and after many grappling takedowns and attempted arm-bars and all eventually settled and then ended with some guy pummeling another until the ref, in a long sleeve UFC shirt and blue rubber gloves, threw his hands, waving in the air, slid down to his side next to the grapplers, and pried in like a human crowbar and eventually broke it up. Both men looked defeated in the end. Paul leaned back and sunk his head into the puffy cottony pillow.
"I wonder who won, Clovers." Paul said tiredly shadowboxing from the bedside.
Paul rumbled off the bed and crawled to the min-bar, swung it open and tossed it on the comforter. Clover sprawled out and flipped to his belly, all four legs floating up.
Paul, with another beer, crawled back over, disarming Clovers by tugging on his tail and Clover cleared a space for him. He cracked open his New Castle and shook Clovers ear. Clover gnawed on the pig ear eyeing him from his canine profile. After a few sips he reached over to the end table where the scratch off ticket awaited under his lucky copper penny. He scratched it off revealing a tiny black symbol of a BEAR. He scratched again revealing a PINE and then a wavy line, under it read SEA, and then black and white MOOSE and then the last area he scratched a MONEY BAG.
"We are rich again Clover. Two times in one week. Now for the prize." He scratched under the money bag and the $3,000 appeared.
"Holy mother of God." Paul was flabbergasted. "CLOVE WE REALLY WON."
Clovers sat up still gnawing at the pig ear. The new castle fizzed over and onto the motels brand new bedspread.
"THANK YOU, JESUS." Paul pinched himself making sure it was real and Clovers did a little dance around him.
Soon, the ticket was left strategically in the nightstand with his keys and wallet and he was off to bed.
That night Sue came to him in a dream.
Sue was lying next to him on a sandy beach still wearing her silk gown. The gown she had passed in. The gown he had bought for her at Macy's, so she wouldn't have to wear the one the hospital provided. It was solid white with a cascade of blue flowers.
"Paul. Do you remember those stories you would write when you were younger? When we first met."
"That was a long time ago, Sue."
"Remember that one you wrote for the paper. What was it?"
"I remember. Gone Fishin'"
"Oh, yeah. I submitted to the Gazette."
"And they loved it. They published it."
"Yep. I remember. I had a knack for it."
"Why don't you write again. You know you could do that when I'm gone."
"Your not leaving Sue."
"Oh, I'll leave, Paul."
"You think writing could take your place."
"I just want you to be happy, Paul. Happy doing something you love."
"I'm nearly sixty, Sue. My glory days are over."
"Its never too late, Paul."
"I'm old, Sue."
"That's no excuse."
"Well, what do you want me to write about?"
"Life. You'll have it when I leave this place. You'll have life."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
"God told me to tell you."
"Tell you want."
"He told me that he wanted you to be happy when I'm gone. He wants you to live life."
"God told you this?"
"I can talk to God now Paul."
"What does God want?"
"He wants you to be happy."
"How can I be happy without you. I'll be all alone. That scares me."
"You should write about it."
"But I haven't written anything in a long time. What should I write?"
"He told me it would be in the world. Signs would be there. Symbols. Words. People and their actions."
"What like road signs. What kind of signs?"
"I don't know exactly. He said you would be able to tell a special story that would bring people closer to the word of God."
"The word of God."
"He told me it would be in the world. Words. People. Actions."
A wave crashed on the beach and salt water floated up just a few feet from them.
"He told me you would meet someone soon."
"He said you should help her find her home."
"Is she the missing girl."
Another wave crashed down and Paul turned his head to the ocean and then back to Sue. Sue was gone and only her imprint in the sand remained.
Paul woke up to a loud blaring on the television. He searched for the remote control and found it under the pillow and hit the small button and the screen turned black.
The alarm clock read 3:33AM. Clover woke up and yawned exposing his sharp fangs and his tongue flipped out to the side of his mouth.
"Time to go pee, Clover."
Paul got up and got undressed and headed to the badge walled restroom with plain exposed bulbs and blain fixtures, and took a hot shower thinking of what Sue told him to do. Steam billowed everywhere and his skin turned red and he nearly left the knob on the thick red line under H. Clover broke into the bathroom, leaving the door wide and let steam escape, and awaite under a cloud of hot steam. Paul got out and dried off and put on the motel bathrobe, letting the dog follow close on his heel.
"Lets go out into the patio."
He took Clovers to the back patio of the motel, spinning the leash around his wrist. Clover followed him out and trotted over to the corner where line of geraniums grew. There was a thick flower pot which housed an Easter Lily. Clover lifted his leg and began his business.
"Not in that flower pot, boy." Paul ran over and pushed Clover over a tad. Clover stumbled and then swayed over to the edge of a fence were some fresh grass grew. Paul looked around to make sure no one was around and checked with Paul. Paul nodded and the dog let loose.
"Hurry up. Make sure it lands in the grass."
The dog finished up and Paul snapped the end of the leash onto the dog collar.
"Come on boy, lets take a load off."
Crickets echoed in the far distance and the sound of rain was approaching in deep thunders rumbles.
"Looks like more rain. If there is a lost girl out there, I hope she has her umbrella." Lightning flashed without a sound within the clouds and a wild lupine figure outlined as the sky filled with electricity before more furthering anvil shape thunderclouds approached. Paul sat and pictured the little girls blue eyes and curly hair. The glossy he saw in the paper was haunting him.
"Another storm, Clovers. Two nights in a row so far." . . .
"Remember when you gave me the boot, Paul?"
"Gave you the boot." Now, Sue was standing before him in her long gown. Clover was still there. And the motel's setting still present. It was as if she had just appeared there before him.
"Yes. I do remember. I was standing outside the cabin. We were near that resort with the weird Maho. . .sounding name.
"Mohonk Mountain House."
"Yes. The Mohonk Mountain house. Ahaah. Hudson Valley Resort. I remember. But we were in a mountain up in the hills quite a ways away. I was standing outside in the snow with one boot on banging at the door. You caught me smoking again. You hated when I smoked."
"Yep. And I gave you the boot."
"The other boot. You gave me my other boot and made me walk to the resort alone. By myself in the freezing cold. And then I had to call from there to calm ya down. You got so mad at me back then. Ya did such drama queen stuff back then."
"I gave you the boot."
"You gave me my boot back."
"I gave you the boot."
"You sure did." Paul leaned to kiss her and then she wasn't there. A single leaf parachuted down and slowly landed before his bare feet. Clover trotted over and sniffed the ground where she once stood. Now there was only a leaf. The wind picked up and a mess of more leaves toppled in from above, splashing over Paul and the dog jolted and whiffed the air and began to pant and whimper. Leaves just lay all over. And no sight of Sue.
"Come on boy, we are going for a midnight walk." It was three hours or more after midnight. Time had been standing still that night and Paul decided he walk under the moonlight with Clovers. Not too far, if it rained he'd have to hurry back to the warm dry motel room for more HBO Sports and Ultimate fighting.
They walked for hours until reaching the edge of the road, which on the other side edged a five hundred feet drop off. A cliff overlooking millions of silvery waves crashing on a beach below. The hissing from the waves crashing ashore drew Paul closer to the edge. Clover followed in the lead lightly pulling on the leash. Clover was in a hurry more than usual, tugging.
"What is it boy?"
The dog lead him to a stony manmade walkway that lead jaggedly stepped downward the massive drop, edging the rock wall.
"That's pretty steep."
Clover kept whimpering and sniffing the salty air. He was on to something.
"What is it boy? What do ya see?"
A strange feeling came over Paul and Paul was lead, by Clovers, down the walkway and closer to the beach.
Finally, they reach the muddy sand below and every time Paul took a step, his boot sank deeply and stuck in the sand. It was as if he was walking in a bog. The tide had come in and drenched the entire beach front.
"The tide picked up tonight."
He slopped around with the dog. Clovers kept pulling him through the shallow salt water and then stopped at platformed staircase that hugged the rock wall.
Clover begin barking wildly.
"What's up there, boy."
Paul climbed step by step until he reached the top. Now he was towering the beach and overlooking the silver tip waves crashing under the light from the moon which hung under a cloudless black sky with sporadic gleaming stars here and there.
Paul was led by Clovers along the edge of the cliff. He barked louder and louder and then stopped and began to huff.
The road wasn't but a fifty yards inland, and a car passed by with it's high beams. Clover squinted his eyes as the bright light passed. The roar of the motor passed by and then trailed off.
"What is it, Clovers?"
There in the moonlight, sat a little girl, in an oversized white T-shirt, raggedy blue jeans and knee high rain boots.
The little girl looked over.
"Is that you Nicole?" She didn't answer.
Paul had to cross over a deep ravine that opened up nearing the edge of the cliff.
"There is no way we can jump that boy."
The dog patted the grown like an angered horse and Paul calmed him and tugged on his leash like a hackamore.
"Patience is a virtue old boy."
Paul lead Clovers to the road, which was a quick walk. Once they reached the edge of the road they found themselves surrounded by a newly arriving thick fog.
"Hang on Nicole. We are coming."
Paul walked along the road and passed over a small bridge that crossed the ravine and then lead Clover to the edge of the cliff exiting the thick musty fog.
No one was there. A strong wind blew strong.
Paul started to panic and ran to the edge of the cliff and looked over. The waves crashed along the rocks.
"We got to get down there, Clovers."
The little girl couldn't of gone far. He followed the edge of the cliff until he found the ravine and then looked down the ravine and called out, "NICOLE."
No one answered back.
"Dear Lord. Please let her be okay."
Paul prayed and went back to the road and headed across the small bridge. Down the road about a half mile there was a bright light revealing a large sign that revealed a sign of civilization. Paul followed the road and did his best to keep up with the dog. Clove was tugging him the entire way.
"Hang on boy." Paul held his back and let the dog pull him.
Finally he reached the gas station. A diesel truck pulled up. The sign outside read Closed. The truckers breaks squealed and the six wheeler smoothly stopped.
The trucker pulled along the pumps and got out. He walked over to the back and Paul began to trot. Clovers was out front leading.
"Sir. Sir. Can you help me." Paul begged.
"I saw a little girl about a half mile back there. She was sitting along the cliff and then when I got up to here she vanished. I'm afraid something bad may have happen. I looked over the edge and down a ravine but couldn't find her. Can you call the police?"
The trucker, without a word, went to his cab and pulled out his cellphone.
"I just dialed nine one one. Give me a second."
It took about thirty minutes for the police to get there. Four police cars arrived along with a fire truck and ambulance and a search helicopter.
The officer approached him with his maglight out and a notepad. Behind him was a team of detectives in line for questioning.
"I'm Officer McGill. Can you tell me what you saw?"
"My name is Paul Woodson. I'm here visiting from Monson. I was just on a late night walk with my dog. I'm always up these hours. I work the night shift. I saw the little girl along the edge of the cliff about a half mile down the road. I can lead you there."
A few of the dectictive asked him similar question and asked if he could lead him to the exact spot he saw the missing girl.
"Did she have curly blond hair?" A detective asked.
"I wasn't that close to her. She was wearing a large T Shirt with tall black rain boots."
Paul was asked to board the side of cruiser and Clover was allowed to sit in the back. The officer offered him some coffee.
"Well. I usually don't drink coffee this late, but thanks."
Paul sipped on the hot coffee.
"Do me a favor. Try to remember every little detail when you saw the little girl. Not just what she was wearing and her physical appearance, but what was going on around her. We doubt she would of fallen off the edge of the cliff. We think this may be a kidnapping. Did you see vehicle."
"Hm." Paul took another drink and then twisted around to check on Clovers. Clover was glued to the window with his tongue out, panting and fogging the window to a crystalline smear.
"aaaw. Lets see. Huh. Well, there was one car."
Paul closed his eyes and remembered seeing the bright lights flash as he was approaching the bridge that stretched over the ravine.
"It was right before I was crossing the bridge. But I didn't see the little girl get inside."
"You didn't. Did you hear her."
The officer turn the heater down and then lowered the volume on his static-fizzing walkie talkie. The lights outside spun from aqua blue to blood red, as they passed between two rock walls. Paul breathed in deep and pictured the car passing and the sounds of the wheels slowing.
"I think I remember something."
Then, he saw the lights standing still.
"I remember the car was parked. Before I saw her."
"Focus on all your senses. Remember the sights and sounds. Smells. All five senses. Was it windy out? Cold breeze? Its what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell, that helps us recall images from our past. Just relax."
Paul put the coffee in the plastic holder near the CB and leaned back.
Clovers breathing began to sound more like the gushing wind before he saw the little girl. Then, the sound of the waves entered the picture. And next, the smell of the salt water and then he saw the car.
"It was a town car. Something fancy." Paul could see it clear now. The lights low beams were on.
"The front passenger side of the car door is open. The door is wide. A see her now. She's getting in."
"Do you see the driver."
Paul leaned back further in the seat and covered one hand over his forehead.
"Wait." The officer sat motionless awaiting an answer.
"I can see his face."
The officer carefully pulled the car over and put it in park.
"It's a male."
"Is he older."
"Older and ruggedy. He has a scar on his cheek. A beard. He has a beard."
"What does the scar look like?"
"It's a deep scar. It starts under his cheekbone and then curves down across the hollow of his cheek."
"Is he a big man, small, thin. Dark hair. Any tattoos."
The officer flipped his small notepad with one hand and jotted down notes.
"Is it okay if I record you."
"I don't mind." Paul had his hands over his eyes.
"Let me see it. Uhm. She isn't struggling. She just gets in with him. I can't believe this is coming to me now."
"Sometimes memory takes time to set in. Go on. Try to think of what he looked like."
"He has dark curly hair. He has a full beard. It's wiry and his hair is short, but shaggy. He hasn't seen a barber in awhile."
"Does he speak?"
"No. They are both silent. Something odd though."
"Go on." The officer held up the digital recorder and thumbed through the notepad.
"She looks happy."
"The little girl. If it is Nicole. She looks happy."
"Uhm. Yeah. She's smiling. She gets in and she's smiling. That's when he shuts off the interior lights and pulls the car toward the ravine. Then, he turns the high beam on and I'm blinded for bit. I have to look away. The car passes."
Paul could smell the oil and gas as the car passed in his memory.
"She looks happy."
He could see the little girl smiling at the dripping window. Her face angelic and shiny. Her eyes wide and full of life.
"She looks like she's having the time of her life."
"This happens sometimes. To kidnap kids. Sometimes the kidnapping becomes a thrill ride to them."
"That's all I can remember now."
The police car pulled up on the edge of the cliff and near the bridge and ravine, where Paul had last seen the little girl.
They combed the are and even allowed Clovers to sniff around. He told them,
"If it wasn't for my dog, I would of never of found this location. Clover was the one that lead me here."
"This will help us on a search, Mr. Woodson. Officer McGill and the Harbor police will keep in touch with you. You may get a call from one of our detectives. WE are trying to figure out is this was actually Nicole, or a girl that may have looked like her."
"I'm sure it was here. She looked just like the girl in the paper. Same color of hair, same curls and same blue eyes. I'm sure it was her."
"We have investigators on the case and more are arriving for clues. This stuff takes time. We will let you know. Just call our station." He handed him a card. Paul looked down at the blue and white star and the numbers and addresses and emails printed across the front and pocketed it.
Paul was dropped off at the motel and headed right to the hot shower and dried off. Clove was a little muddy and he washed him down with a spray house that detached from the shower head.
Clovers bit at the spraying water and kept his mouth agape, smiling like dogs do when they get a wash, or at least dogs like Clover did.
"Good boy. Now shake." Clover shook the soapy water off and then Paul rinsed him off. He dried him off with a used towel and then kicked back with a New Castle he had picked up from a nearby gas station and watched some HBO Retro.
"What is this Clovers? Terminator."
Paul watched the TV, thinking about the lost girl more than the artificial intelligent Sky net Cyborg assassin. The crescendo lifted as the synthesizer and futuristic drum beat pounded and Paul kept gazing into his memory of the little girl sitting at the edge of the cliff under the moonlight. Far below the little girl a dangerous fall awaited. Far below, the crashing waves existed from the deep of the open water, and pushed by the mighty currents. Waves with their silvery sharp tips and salty foamy bubbles exploding and smashing into myriad uncertain directions. The continuous rocky motion of the Atlantic and it's oceanic whisper, held Paul in place.
He closed his eyes and pictured the surf and the rumbling nightly tide crash ashore. The little girl sat, cross legged, peering out over the peppered starry sky awaiting at the edge.
A nightly enveloping tide awaiting below. Crashing and returning. Sending and drawing.
Paul was lost now. No longer sitting on the bed. Clover and the TV and the motel room had vanished. He was somewhere floating over the cliff, looking down on the little girl, like a guardian angel.
She waited and the waters crashed.
Crashing and sending, returning and bringing forth. This is how the sea operated. He could see its motion now. It was crystal clear.
And when seawater meets the land under the dark skies, the island is built upon and in time it will change and in time it will move. For she is moving. The island. The girl. The state of Maine. The country. The world. Everything is crashing into a new shore far from home.
Spilling and washing down against the rocky wall, and slicing rocks, leaving behind strings of seaweed and lost shells, an outpour dead skeletal crustacean that only tides can bring forth. He could see it all. Floating there above the cliffs and the lost Nicole.
And a splitting trails of the seaway's prints arise and fall like his memory as he sits and watches the future unfold on the TV and thinks of the lost, smiling little girl.
"Nicole. Can you hear me?"
The little girl looked up at him.
Paul fell now, missing the edge of the cliff and began to soar to the bottom of the rocks and right before he hit the bottom, his eyes snapped open.
The credits where playing on the TV set and Clover was lying on his back, passed out with his paws in the air and his belly bloating in and out.
The electronic synthesizer kept buzzing and the drum machine ticked and thumped. Paul leaned over and hit the remote and the TV screen blinked, zipped inward and fell black.
Paul reached for his New Castle and it wasn't there. It was turned over on the floor under a damp half fizzy stain of moth yellow.
"Crap." Paul leaned over and rubbed Clovers belly. Clover grunted and turned to his side and Paul sank his head back in the pillow.
"We'll get up in a few hours. Just after sunrise. Okay dog."
The dog remained asleep.
Paul's lower back was stiff and his elbow tight and throbbing. Still in his ears the long ring. Reeeeeee. It kept on like small voice. When the room got quiet the ringing continued. The noisy repetition of the machines of the factory still calling him. Ringing that low and high reeeeeeee cry.
Paul sat there on his back, holding his soar forearm and lifting his knees over his torso. His body was now broken down.
He thought of the flower and its pedals. He counted them. All six of them and the purple yellowy center. He thought of it as a small person. With a face. With arms and with a sunny, smile. He smiled at the flower and them mouthed the words again, Mahon. He whispered. Mahon. Then, he drifted off to sleep again, thinking of cooking up it's pedals in a boiling pot and then crushing the flower into a powder and scooping it up with a spoon and stirring it in a hot boiling coffee mug.
Then, he lifted it to his lips and sipped. Paul went numb and drifted off to sleep. His eyes rolled into his head and the dog next to him fell into a deep sleep, whimpering and ticking.
Both of them now. Away from the world. Silent and still. Sleep had overcome them.
Sue was there now. Standing before the edge of the cliff where the young girl once was.
"Sue. Where am I going?"
"Don't worry about that Paul. Just keep going."
"But I left work. I ran away."
"You didn't runaway, Paul. You moved on."
"Where am I going, Sue?"
"Where do you want to go?"
"I just want to get away from it all. Away from the pain."
A great wind picked up and Sue's image became like the strong winds and was carried off. Paul could here the ocean crash along the seashore below.
Paul yelled into the wind.
"What about the little girl. Are you helping me find her, Sue." Nothing answered back.
"Can you help me Sue?"
The wind kept blowing but her voice was no longer there.
"Can you help me, Sue?"
Paul woke up. Clover was still sleeping at the edge of the bed. The TV was still on. The sun was coming up and the sky outside was just beginning to turn blue.
"Not everything is lost yet, Clovers."
The dog yawned in his sleep and turned over.
"Wake up boy. Today, we go fishing."
The boat was wide for a fishing boat and already had a overfilled net of Lobster hanging off the rear. A Maine flag flapped from the tip of the ship's flagpole and painted in sky blue on the side of the ships hull was Dirigo.
A sign at the end of the doc, hand painted was the following: Bar Harbor Tours. Forty dollars a person.
"Can ya come down on that price captain?" Paul asked.
The Captain turned to face. He looked exactly like most sea captains looked. The usual full beard and curly hair. Both his beard and hair were graying with touches of soap-white.
"Is yer dog coming, sir?"
"I can't leave Clover behind." Paul told the captain.
No one else was on the ship.
"Well. If the dog comes I'll have to keep the price the same, matey."
"I see." Paul looked down at Clover. The sun bounced off Clover's eyes, living two shiny crystal balls where the pupils where.
"Clover's worth it." Clover snarled and then rubbed his head against his masters shins and then reared back and awaited to board the ship.
The floor was lined with a few loose lobsters and the captain removed his yellow slicker and hung it before the front door to the cabin. Now, like most captains, he revealed a sported turtle neck that climbed over his protruding Adam's apple. The sweater was black, with oak colored patches where the elbows where. Jonah watched the soft wool move up and down when he spoke. He watched the round nod at the center of the front of his neck convex through the wool, and fall under the chin, when his deep rustic voice spoke out. For some reason, his turtle neck caught Paul's attention, lifting and rolling causing defined creases, just below Adam's apple. His pants where the color of the sea, and wrinkled when he bent over for stray lobster. The pants where mostly spotless, and some parts spotted with salt water and with a few scratches and paint stains and his pull on boots, where long opaque and rubber.
For an old man, he was still stout and strong and walked with a brood step.
"Hope ya don't get sea sick, matey."
"Naaaa. Clover might."
The dog looked up at Paul and then down at the rocky floor of the boat. Paul had him still leashed up and lead him to the front of the cabin and Paul took out his wallet and pulled out a couple of twenties.
"You take cash, doncha?"
"Yep." The captain took the money and then folded it up and stuffed into his jeans.
"When do we sail?" Asked Paul.
"Hold yer horses sonny. Got to pull up the anchor and clean up a bit." The burly bearded man said picking up a lobster and tossing in the side caged bin.
"How far out do you go on the tour?"
"Not too far. I hug the edge of the island for a few hours and depending on the current, I high tail it back and drop anchor. Do me favor, sonny, help me with casting off."
The ship captain scaled the edge of the hull, skimming his hands along the railing and Paul tied Clover leash, with Clover still chained, to the front cabin door. Then, followed on the Captain's heel. "Hang on boy, I won't forget about you. If anything happens you'll be the first I'll save." Clover looked up with wide honest eyes and then buried his head and tucked all fours under him and sank his chin on a wood plank.
"Alright I'll be right behind ya." Paul said following the ship captain.
"My name is Asher? What's yer name?" The captain offered his hand and Paul shook.
"I'm Paul. Paul Woodson. My dog is Clover. Its okay if I keep him tied to the cabin door ain't it?"
"Oh, sure. Mr. Woodson huh. I'm going to need help hauling the anchor up. My crane isn't working right today. Do ya mind?"
"No. Sure. I'd love to help."
The Captain and Paul carefully walked over to the edge of the railing where the anchor was held and Asher grabbed on to the hawser and began pulling it up.
"Just guide the rope as I pull it up."
Paul let the rope slide through his hands and anchored himself down as the rope became more and more taut.
"Heavy rope." Paul said.
"Its called a hawser. Made of horsehair. Some of em." The man said. "this one's been layered more than three times fold."
The rope was braided and about as thick as the captains forearms which were lined with bulging veins and round and sturdy like freshly hewed tree trunk.
The pulled on the rope for a good portion of time and then out of nowhere a clanking sound came from inside the cabin. Then, the clanking turned into a small tapping. The tapping turned to an exhorted thumping. It wasn't machine like at the sawmill but sounded like a person's doing.
Paul checked to see if Clover was trying to break free from his leash. Clover was perfectly still, but on all four's listening to the strange thumping.
"Do you hear that?"
"Nope. Do you hear something?"
"It sounds like someone is inside the cabin?"
"Oh, no one is down there. I'm the only one of board, besides you and your dog."
The captain continued reeling in the hawser until finally the two large metal hooks fastened against the railing and clung.
Asher flung the anchor loose and gravity yanked it down back into the water leaving a shattering splash.
"Lets reel her in again." The captain said and Paul stood behind him guiding the rope. This time he pulled on his end more sternly and guided it hand over hand.
"I didn't realize you had got the anchor up?"
Just then, after Paul spoke, the thumping in the cabin ceased.
Finally, after a second try the anchor found it's way back to the edge of the railing and the captain unfastened it around the railing and sat it down on a coiled hawser stocked at the tip of the hull.
"Welp'. We best get ready for hour tour. You done paid me the forty dollars and all."
Asher smiled his gritty pearlies revealing a few sharp lower, slightly daggered fangs, like that of a shark. His lower set where long and pale, and pointy too, and the red of his gums made Paul think of blood. He had a sharp and dangerous grin, with a few teeth spaced, knifed and others tilted like pine hewed by the wind, and some missing, revealing dark shadows here or there. Surprisingly every tooth was tantamount, flat and edged and as white as an elephant tusk and strangely not an ounce of any yellowing. His smile was not of a sailor that had been away at sea, but rather the sharks that patrolled the Atlantic waters.
Like a mad, hungry shark awaiting new fangs to sprout, he gummed at Paul and then winked and scuffled over to Clover, not making a single creak on the planks, living each lined wood silent, untouched and with no grate.
"Good boy. You coming with us aye."
Clover whimpered and buried his head again.
Paul was in awe of the endless rocky waves and the open sea. "De sight is what brings the tourist in." The fisherman told Paul.
Paul took a seat with clover. Then the thumping noise crept in. He couldn't tell if it was his memory or if it had arrived once more.
"Did you hear that. Its happening again?"
"Oh, that's probably my fishing gear down dah' banging against the hull." Only he pronounced gear like geeah'.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
By Marianne Williamson