Terri's Cellar Door

Stuff that happens to me, Terri.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

By Accident or Design

I just realized that I hadn't checked the story for all those little grammatical mistakes that a friend had told me about. And I realized that I don't care. Ouch, that hurts. I'm just proud of myself for actually finishing a story, instead of letting it languish forever in development hell. Meanwhile here's the other half of the story with an ending that will have you thinking: What a twist!

He Sees the Ghost Pt. 2

It was almost midnight, but Jacob still wasn’t asleep. It had been almost a week since he saw the old man, but he was still thinking about the meeting. He hadn’t been sleeping, barely eating, and neglecting his chores. Finally after another restless night of tossing and turning, he had turned on all the lights and headed up to the attic. He was standing, and though he was still, he seemed frenzied, knee deep in clutter. The attic he was rifling through had gone from neat stacks and arranged boxes to one pile after another of crumpled family memories. A quilt covering this pile, a stack of photos covering that, but amidst all the chaos, surrounding Jacob there was a stillness. It was a complete stillness that enveloped the room. Jacob was still breathing heavily from his rummaging, and in his hand was the result of his harried search. It was a watch. A pocketwatch. A pocketwatch that bore a marked similarity to watch that Saul had shown him before. This watch was passed down through his family generation from generation. It was probably about a hundred years old, and there couldn’t be another like it in the entire country, much less in the same lake. But there it was, an almost exact replica of Saul’s watch. Jacob swallowed and pushed the clasp gingerly. The same song that had played on Saul’s watch sounded from the one in his hands. The song that he remembered, but didn’t know from where. Jacob sat down with a thud. That was the song that was playing on Saul’s watch. That was the song that he couldn’t quite place. Questions buzzed around Jacob’s head like gnats, and as much as he tried to swat them away, they always came back, and with more friends. He commanded his legs to stand, and then dragged them to his bedroom. He closed the door behind him, and walked across the room to sit in the chair. Her chair. The chair he had made for her. It creaked under his weight and continued as he began to rock back and forth, his eyes never leaving the watch. It seemed to say the same thing again and again, “It’s the same.” It was as though he was in a trance. And that’s the way he stayed all night, his eyes never leaving the watch, rocking slowly back and forth. Before dawn he was distracted by his alarm clock that rang out announcing it was time to get up. The dogs were already pawing at the door, and Jacob quickly made some food for them. He didn’t even bother with breakfast for himself as he gulped down a cup of coffee, bundled up and headed out. He hurried the dogs out the door, and rushed down to the pier. Jacob didn’t know what he’d do if he saw the old man again, he didn’t know what he’d say, but he had to try to find him. The dogs jumped onto the boat after him and they were off, with smoke trailing behind them in the water. The sun was barely touching the sky, but Jacob knew the bay well enough to know where to go. The mist was still hanging low in the sky near the little island, and as Jacob sped towards it, his hand went into his pocket and squeezed the watch. To touch it meant that it was still there, that he hadn’t dreamt the whole thing. For a while after she was gone, Jacob had dreamed about her. The dreams seemed so real; he would touch her cinnamon skin, and caress her raven hair, and kiss her lips. He would rush downstairs the next morning and expect to see her there, reading the paper, and waiting for him to make breakfast; a smile on her lips as she hummed a lullaby. But when he reached the bottom of the stairs there was only the same thing that greeted him every day; a cold kitchen and an empty table. Many times he had broken down, cried right there in the kitchen as the dogs whimpered around him and pushed their heads into his lap. There were some days when he really thought he had gone crazy. Sometimes he thought it would be better off. At least then he could be with her inside his mind. But Saul was not in Jacob’s mind. He couldn’t be. The man saved Gideon’s life and had rowed back to him. He had eaten the sandwich that Jacob had made, and he had chatted the day away, and had left boot prints on the deck of Jacob’s little boat. But the watch in his pocket had raised questions that Jacob couldn’t even begin to answer. The dogs sensed that he was anxious and layed down low near the bow. Jacob raced towards the little island and when he had cut through some of the fog, and could see the shore, he slowed down. His eyes scanned the shore, but there was nothing. No old man hobbling around, no mysterious pocketwatches, nothing. Jacob began to feel a little silly. He had raced back here, for what? To chase some ghost? And that’s what it was beginning to feel like. Like she was gone and he was still coming down the steps expecting her to be there. He felt his legs crumple and he hit the deck. He couldn’t focus his eyes, his hands wouldn’t stop shaking, and for some reason his head was pounding. What exactly did he expect to find out here? He tried to stand but found this much more difficult than sitting and so stayed on the deck. Suddenly he heard voices. Peeking over the side, he saw two people waving from the shore. Somehow he got the strength to make himself stand and pilot over to their direction. Their names were Jim and Nellie and they had been picnicking on the island the day before and had somehow lost track of time. Before they knew what was happening, it was high tide and their boat had gotten away from them. They had spent all evening hoping someone would track them down, but after it had gotten colder they had to seek shelter inland. Jim knew which way his boat had gone, and if Jacob could just take them there they’d be so grateful. Jacob was still slightly shaken, but pulled the boat inland a bit, and brought the couple onboard. As he offered a hand to Nellie, he discovered her’s were practically frigid. But they had been out all night on the island, no doubt it was freezing. They were a youngish couple, African American, and were wearing clothes that Jacob thought were a little dated. At the very least they were dressed for the winter. With Jim pointing the way, Jacob steered the boat and finally he saw the shape of their boat bobbing on the waves. Jacob told them of a place where they could get cleaned and warm. Jim tried to slip him a five dollar bill, “For you trouble.” But Jacob refused. They went back and forth and finally Jacob relented, on the condition that if the couple ever went out again, they would come and see Jacob first, who could ensure they would make it back to shore safely. He watched them paddle quickly away, and soon they were enveloped in the quickly evaporating fog.

Jacob looked towards the little island, but the sun was quickly rising in the sky, and the dogs were getting restless. There were chores to do, and he had neglected to even bring his fishing nets with him. He began to turn the boat, and carelessly fiddled with the bill Jim had given him. He took out his wallet to put it away, but he caught another glimpse of it. It wasn’t normal. It had a five on it, but instead of Abraham Lincoln, there was a large picture of Andrew Jackson. Jacob furrowed his brow as he studied it. There were a couple pioneers right in the middle and a strange script on the very top. He didn’t think Jim and Nellie be the kind of people to try to slip in fake money, but the bill was certainly not legitimate. Jacob had made up his mind, as soon as he reached the shore, he put the dogs into his house, and rode his bike to the library. The cold wind cut at his face, but he peddled on. He barely let his bike stop before he was bounding up the library steps and bursting through the doors. The library had a section named for his great grandfather. Before he had died, his grandfather had come here every night to read the paper. He’d walk slowly down the long road, and when he reached the front steps, he’d just collapse, and open up his paper. At that point, Jacob was already taking care of the chores, and even piloting the ship on his own, and his grandfather had very little to do. The library was like an old family friend, and Jacob had spent his fair share of time searching through the books, as he was doing now. After a short while, he found what he was looking for. He hurriedly reached for his wallet and pulled out the bill that Jim had given him. It was a match. Jim had given him a five dollar bill from 1907. Jacob couldn’t understand it. A bill that old certainly had to be worth more than the five dollars that it advertised. Jacob slammed the book shut and rushed out the front door. The librarian watched him with apprehensive eyes. This time he rode towards the inn he had suggested for Jim and Nellie. The Golden Oyster was almost empty this time of year, and any outsiders would be easily recognized. But the front desk hadn’t checked anyone in days. It was the same at the other two bed and breakfasts in town. Jacob was getting nowhere, so he headed home. It was evening and though his chores were left undone, he was exhausted. He hadn’t caught up on the sleep he had missed the night before, and he felt it. His eyes were rimmed red, and his cheeks haggard. He collapsed on the chair in the living room, and the dogs paced around him. Another evening went by, and before Jacob knew it, it was midnight. By now, the stories of his visits to the local inns, and his stop by the library had traveled all around town. Neighbors noticed his neglected traps, and the familiar pile of trash was missing from his front step. Jacob could feel their stares, but he didn’t feel like going out and putting on a show for them. He just wanted, as always, to be left alone. The fire in the stove had gone out, and the room was quickly losing the precious heat that was left. Jacob didn’t feel this, however, and continued to sit, seeing only the walls. The dogs were getting restless, so he opened the front door to let them out. But something made him stop from closing the door. He heard music. Ever so softly a few notes slipped in on the frigid air. Forgetting his jacket, forgetting his gloves, forgetting his scarf with the initials so lovingly etched on the ends, he stumbled out into the freezing evening air. The notes were louder now. They were the notes from a pocketwatch, from a lullaby; and as Jacob got closer and closer, the music became louder. It was in the fog. The music sounded as if it were coming from in the fog. It was rolling across the dock and towards the houses. He saw a face, her face. It was the face that had loved him, when he’d lost everything. When his parents had died, and his grandparents had followed not long after. It was the face that helped him when he thought he’d lost his home, and his livelihood. It was the face that had grimaced and worked with him when he thought he had forgotten everything he knew. It was the face that had looked up at him one final time, covered in blood, as glass lay across the darkened highway. It was her. Jacob rushed toward her, letting himself be enveloped by the murkiness, embracing her, and pulling her close to him. The dogs howled in the moonlight.

He thought he saw his love that day.
But he’d just given his mind away.
And now as all he knows grows black
He doesn’t know how to go back.

The life he knows is gone forever.
A darkness he’s just had to weather.
And yet a new light shines for him.
The light that grows bright, free from sin.

People stand by and watch the show.
A man who sees what they can’t know.
They pity him with saddened eyes
Wishing they had said their goodbyes.

Amidst the mists and coldest frosts,
with stoutest wrists and loudest boasts,
he thrusts his fist against the posts
and still insists he sees the ghosts.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I had a Dream I Could Buy My Way to Heaven, When I Awoke I Spent that On A Necklace...

So, apparently I hate the Jonas Brothers. It's just that they can't sing. I mean, you can sing whatever you want, pop, emo, death metal, but if you have a good singing voice, there's no problem. But these kids (men, in some cases), have terrible singing voices. Like, they're whiny and they have no right to be. Anyway, this post isn't about that, though, it very well could be. I'm posting that story that I told you about twenty years ago. I would have done the Get Smart review, but I feel like I missed the boat on that one. And then there's this Batman review I was going to do, but I lost the steam I had saved up for that one. So here's the story:

He Sees the Ghost Pt. 1

Jacob closed the wooden door silently behind him. He quickly took of his gloves and rubbed his hands together to fight off the morning chill. He walked over to the open fireplace and opened his hands in front of the blaze, letting it do the warming for him. It was not quite dawn and yet Jacob had almost finished his morning routine: letting out the dogs, checking the lobster traps, and walking the pier to see what the night’s waves had brought onto the shore. There was nothing there but a few pieces of trash, but Jacob had brought them along anyway, dumping them beside the door has he hurried to get in out of the crisp, morning air. It wouldn’t be long before the dogs started pawing at the door to be let in as well, so with a grimace he moved away from the fire and took off his heavy woolen coat, hat, and scarf. As he tossed them onto the chair he looked lovingly at his initials sewn into the fabric. JS. He turned and began to gut some fish to go with the morning’s breakfast.

Soon, everything was done. There was fish and grits, juice, and coffee set at the table. Jacob had even gotten the scraps and sprinkled them over the dog’s breakfasts as well, something he never forgot to do. Jacob always had fish for breakfast because there was always fish. Jacob’s family had lived in that same house for generations, living off the sea. As a slave in the south, Jacob’s great-great grandfather had yearned for freedom, and found it sailing the seas of the northeast. Then, when he returned home, he built that house, on land bought with his own money, gainfully earned. Jacob was proud of his grandfather, and equally proud of his great-great grandmother, who raised ten children in that tiny house, and then helped raise 45 grandchildren. Over 60 kids had been raised in that house, at one point or another, but they had all moved away, one by one, until there was only Jacob left. His parents had never lived in the house, and as soon as his father was old enough he had gone to the big city, Granger, which was 100 miles away. His father moved to Granger, and made a life for himself. It was a life that included being the first black neurosurgeon in the city, and marrying Jacob’s marching, protesting, social activist mother, and a life that did not include fish. Jacob was attending sit-ins when he was eight years old. He knew more about Nelson Mandela than about clams, and more about the Montgomery bus boycotts than oysters. He had been soft, supple, and too smart for his own good. But that was all a long time ago. Before he had moved in with his grandparents. Before he had spent day after day pulling in nets and cages, and getting the calluses and muscles that came with living off of the sea. Before things had gone wrong. Now he was a fisherman, plain and simple. He liked it that way; simple. He stood up slowly as he heard the scratching of paws at the door. But he heard something else, as well. It was a song he used to love, a song he used to hear everyday. But before he could place it, it was gone, and he shook himself from his memory and opened the door. The fog that wrapped it’s ghostly tendrils around the harbor was quickly seeking refuge as the sun rose higher and higher. But, as Jacob looked across the water, very quickly, he thought he saw something new in the mist.

He still set two places at the dining table. It was the same reason that he still brewed up a pot of coffee, and the same reason that he still brought in the worthless trash from the beach every day. It’s not as if he thought she was going to walk through the door like she always did after her morning jog. Her hands full of paints and tools, a smile on her mocha face, panting, and happy to see him. It was not as though he expected that. The neighbors would shake their heads sadly as they peeked in on him and asked if he needed anything. Milk? They would ask. No thanks, was the ready answer. Mending? No, I’m fine. Again, as polite as ever. Time? Company? Oh, no, my work keeps me plenty busy, and besides, I don’t want to be a bother. Jacob didn’t see any reason to burden them. And he had always felt that personal stuff was personal stuff, and public stuff was public stuff; there was no getting the two all mixed up. So the neighbors would just click their teeth and keep moving on. It used to be such a happy home, one would say to another. So full of life. Well, who can blame him, the other would say, still moving away, after what he’s been through? He’d lost so much, the man just needed some time to sort things out. Jacob would ignore them all. He was content enough, living the way he did, and it didn’t matter much, anyway; he was just waiting.

In the winter the fog didn’t so much disappear as wait. It seemed to skulk about the little island on the middle of the water like a lion stalking its prey. Jacob came around the island as he did every morning, piloting his little boat expertly across the silent water. Most fishermen from his town worked farther out in the open water. They took big boats and caught even bigger lobsters and sold them and made thousands. But Jacob had fished the same spot that his grandfather fished, and the same spot that his grandfather fished before him. It was a little cove that always had the tastiest cod, and the most delicious clam. He was able to sell the fish he caught at the market everyday. His were certainly in demand, even the big time fishermen came to him to feed their own families. He dropped the fish off at the stall with Sarah mid morning, and by afternoon he could pick up the money. He could then go and spend the rest of the evening how he pleased, which was usually sitting inside, playing his harmonica. This afternoon, though, he decided to take the dogs and go sailing around the cove. So, he had packed a lunch, and headed out among the craggy surf. He went out into the bay, around the little island, and was heading back when the dogs began to whine. They began to paw at the side of the boat and look desperately to the shore of the little island. Jacob couldn’t see anything, but he knew that his dogs wouldn’t get so worked up over nothing. He turned the boat towards the island, careful to avoid the rocks that he knew were there, but could certainly not see because of the fog. He was close to the shore when Gideon, his small lab jumped out of the boat and into the water. He shouted for her, but hearing nothing but her sure paddling in the water never felt more helpless. Suddenly the paddling stopped, and Jacob began taking off his clothes, layer by layer as he contemplated jumping into the freezing water. Suddenly, breaking through the haze was a small rowboat. Jacob breathed a sigh of relief as he saw Gideon, with her tail wagging happily, standing with her two front paws on the bow, and an elderly black man huffing and puffing behind her. Is this your dog? Jacob helped the man onto the boat and offered him a sandwich out of his pack. The man’s hands were cold like ice, but it was a chilly day, and without his gloves, Jacob is sure his hands would have felt the same. Jacob had never seen Gideon jump out of the boat that way, and told the man as much. The old man said nothing in return and gnawed on his sandwich. The two sat in companionable silence, taking in the sea air, talking about the weather, and the fishing, and their hauls. The old man introduced himself as Saul, he lived not too far up the coast, and was just passing through, looking for a good fishing spot. They talked for what seemed a long while, and before he knew it Saul had pulled out a pocketwatch and started to check the time. Jacob felt the warm sting of the familiar and asked Saul if he could take a look at it. Without a word, the old man handed the watch over. It was old, looked very old, Jacob could see that, but the craftsmanship was solid. There was a beautiful engraving of a sail boat on the front, and when Jacob pushed open the clasp, it even played a jaunty sea tune. Recognition struck him. He’d heard that song before, but where? Before Jacob could even speak his question aloud, Saul grabbed the watch, clamped it shut, and began making his way back to his little rowboat. Jacob tried to convince the old man that taking him up the coast wouldn’t be a struggle. He didn’t like the idea of Saul traveling up the murky water as the sun set to his back, and the fog rushed into the harbor. But Saul would have none of it. He climbed aboard his little boat, with no help from Jacob, and pushed off. With a wave he seemed to be swallowed by the haze, and quickly vanished out of sight. Jacob stood watching the spot where Saul had disappeared for some time. He couldn’t shake the feeling that the old man had left in him. But he could see the sun getting lower in the sky, and knew that it was way past time for him to be heading back to shore. He pulled anchor and turned the boat away from the cold island and to the bright light of the town.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Study in the Global Economic Marketplace

Yeah, yeah, quit your baby whining. I know I didn't post the story. I was there. Something came up. And went back down if you get my drift! Wink, wink; nudge, nudge. No, seriously, I was just sitting around. Meanwhile, I have the story, but I just haven't posted it yet, cause I've got to fix some things, and I just haven't felt like doing it. Call it lazy, call it, um, lazy. But, here's how things get done: when you do them. And I certainly haven't felt like getting any of that on my hands for sometime now. Anyway, I could write on and on about how lazy I am (seriously, I have one essay, it's up to about 86 pages now, well it would be if I wasn't so LAZY), but I have something else to discuss:

People who know me, know that sometimes I like to take diversions into the land of the purely cerebral and put my mind to work in the logical pursuits. I'm not a great logical mind, but I do have several philosophical and moral issues I've been lolling around, and I have a deep seeded love of politics that guides a lot of my serious conversations. Anyway, I will posit to you a situation and would love a response. There is a small businessman who has created and cultivated one of the foremost confectioners manufacturers in the world. The entrepreneur who I will now refer to as Mr. W, is an American, and raised with a fine sense of democracy, capitalism and good old American freedom. His company (which may or may not have been started in the States), has its' headquarters in England, perhaps a small manufacturing community that I will call X. Many in the community are poor, hardworking people, who usually by the time of their retirement, have to be bedridden for the rest of their lives. There is a small immigrant population (mostly Americans), who live in abject poverty, while some in the community live in seeming comfort. Mr. W is well aware of this situation, and when he builds his factory, it is inhabited by many in the community. However, after interference for a competitor (Company Y), Mr. W is forced to shut down his factory in X to outside labor. This venture capitalist, this titan of manufacturing then proceeds to outsource his jobs to minimum wage foreign workers (Worker Z). Worker Z's fill the community, more than likely taking valuable commadities from the habitants of X and causing rapid inflation and other negative socioeconomic indicators. Unbeknownst to the people of X, their crime rate has gone up, and property values have gone down, as Worker Z's move in next door, but not up front, no, in cellars and attics so as not to be seen. Living 20 and 30 to a one room dwelling. Mr. W, fearing a backlash from an increasingly fearful and angry public, invites several members of the public to tour his facility, hoping that this will assuage public fears. However, during the tour there are serveral industrial accidents that cause more confusion than hope. They are not fatal, but could have been easily.

So, there you have it. What is the fate of X? That little berg that so captured our hearts? I don't know, but this situation is certainly the interrelation of countries, people, and cultures, and shows us what happens when the market becomes anybodys guess.

Coming soon: My review of Get Smart (I know, I'm late), that story I promised, and maybe a podcast! Cheer up, Charlie!

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