In Case You've Wondered

My blog is where my wandering thoughts are interspersed with stuff I made up. So, if while reading you find yourself confused about the context, don't feel alone. I get confused, too.

If you're here for the stories, they can be found by clicking the labels button "stuff I made up".

One other thing: sometimes I write words you refuse to use in front of children, or polite company, unless you have a flat tire, or hit your thumb with a hammer.

I don't use them to offend; I use them to embellish.

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Little Electrical Advice

I was helping a friend replace a light switch. The wiring worked, but there was something I found that always concerns me: The neutral was switched, not the hot. Otherwise, it was wired backwards. This is a no-no. If you don't know enough about electricity to know the correct way to wire a switch, a wall socket, or a breaker, then don't. The life you save may be mine.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Collateral Damage

With the threat of the Affordable Care Act being thrown out as illegal, there is a political reaction, which appears to be an effort to soften the blow. This reaction includes the White House calling the law a bi-partisan bill and a "Republican idea", which is a downright lie because there was no opportunity for members of Congress to read the bill before the vote and not a single Republican voted for the bill, which eventually was passed into law after the President's signature.

Included in this reaction is re-branding of the individual mandate to "the personal responsibility clause", which is what brings a question: Do they realize that the use of "personal responsibility" opens up a can of worms? Personal responsibility demands an avoidance of dependence on the government. It, also, demands ethical behavior and being responsible by reading legislation before signing. Neither of these things were the goal of the Congress at the time the bill was signed and the result is a country that is now demanding relief from the burdens of the entitlement class and government intrusion.

I wonder how they're going to handle the collateral damage from their foolish statements?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oh The Horror

I was thinking about the possible ruling on  the Affordable Care Act may end in the total nullification of the law, or just the forced insurance mandate. Either way, the proponents in Congress will be left with the task of reading the thousands of pages if they want to discuss the issues involved. Considering some of the people in Congress, reading the law might be beyond their capabilities.

I Figured It Out

It will probably take some time, but I will eventually work out the details.

* I thought I did, but I was wrong. I will

Something the Media is Ignoring

A famous director tweeted an address of an old couple in Florida with the hope it would lead to the apprehension/kidnapping/lynching of a man that shot another man during a struggle. The address was wrong, but the intention can't be ignored, which leads to the following section of the Texas Penal Code:

 § 22.07. TERRORISTIC THREAT. (a) A person commits an offense if he threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with intent to:

(1) cause a reaction of any type to his threat by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;

(2) place any person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;

(3) prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, place to which the public has access, place of employment or occupation, aircraft, automobile, or other form of conveyance, or other public place;

(4) cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, or power supply or other public service;

(5) place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury; or

(6) influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state.

If Florida has similar laws, will there be formal charges?

The Supreme Court Plays With My Future

It's a little sad that politics, greed, bureaucracy and the agonizingly irresponsible behavior of our government led to a voluminous pile of steaming crap legislation called the "Affordable Care Act". Besides the fact the Congress critters never read the thing, it's full of legal extortion including the individual mandate, which demands I buy insurance, whether I want to, or not. The only option is a fine, which translates into "violating a Federal Code".

What's even sadder is listening to the Supreme Court Justices toss around my future like it's some philosophical exercise. It's pretty clear to me. There's nothing in the Constitution that gives the government the power to force me to buy  any product or service. Since this is true, throw the entire pile of crap out, since the law depends on the individual mandate for funding.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's a Ghost Town.... Did everyone go on vacation?

The Reporter and the Bureaucrats

"How can I help you?"

"First, I want to compliment your agency. I've only had to stand in line for an hour."

"The Department of Initial Processing is proud of it's efficiency. So what can I do for you?"

"Here's my form."

"Are you Bill Smith?"

"Yes, I am."

"Is this your correct identification number?"

"Yes, it is."

"I see you checked "other" on line 12."

"I'm a reporter, so I checked other to ask you if you could answer a few questions."

"I'm sorry, but I can't answer any questions. You'll have to ask a supervisor. Please go to line number 9 and wait your turn. Here's your form."

....two hours later.....

"May I see your form please?"

"Here it is."

"You checked "other" on line 12."

"I'm a reporter, so I wanted to ask some questions."

"Your name is Bill Smith?"

"Yes it is."

"Is this your correct identification number?"

"Yes it is."

"Our records indicate you've already been processed by the Department of Initial Processing. Is your employer "The Local Gazette"?"

"Yes it is."

"I see you recently graduated with a degree in Journalism."

"Yes. That's what brought me here today. During my studies, I read  there were investigative reporters that asked questions on various subjects and wrote a summary of the information. Since my initial visit was quicker than most visits with a government agency, I wanted to ask some questions and write about what makes your department unique."

"Your records show you visited last month, which should have been the only visit you ever needed to our department."

"I know, but I couldn't get enough information without interviewing somebody that worked here."

"Our records don't show any approval for an interview. Did you fill out a form 475E?"

"No, but that what was so special about investigative reporting. It was all unscripted, the reporter received unaltered information and I knew if I just came in, I could get the best information available."

"I'm not aware of the term "investigative reporter". What in the world would a reporter need to investigate. Isn't that the responsibility of The Department of Homeland Security?"

"It's not that type of investigation. It's only to investigate what people wonder about and writing about the information."

"I'm sorry, but without a 475E, and an administrative approval hearing, we can't release any information."

"But. I'm only asking what makes your department so efficient."

"It doesn't matter. No form; no approval; no information."

"It will only take a few minutes. I could interview you during your break."

"How do you know it's almost my break?"

"I just assumed. Most government agencies have a mid-afternoon break, so by logical reasoning, I assumed you would, too."

"I'm sorry, but there is no way I can give any information without prior approval. Are you aware of section 31C of the "Media Accountability Act" of 2014?

"A little."

"This section specifically states that national security is most important, so any inquiries of a government agency requires prior approval."

"It's not like I'm trying to learn any classified information. I'm just curious and would like to have a good story for the Sunday edition."

"I'm sorry, but I can't give you any information. Would you like to formally complain?"

"I think I do."

"Here's your form. At the bottom of the second page is a box you can check, which asks if you have a complaint."

"You can go ahead and check it for me. Where do I go to complain."

"I can't do that. You have rights and I can't alter any document without a court order."

"Okay. Will this work."

"No. I can't accept any document that involves a formal complaint. You have to go to line 20."

"Where's line 20?"

"It's in the annex across the street."

....30 minutes later....

"Can I help you?"

"I'm here to file a formal complaint."

"I'm sorry, but if you'd read the sign above the window, you'd know that initial complaints are only taken between the hours of 8:00 am and 10:00 am."

"It doesn't look like you're doing much. Can't you just take the complaint."

"Sir, I must ask you to leave."

"It's not like I'm asking much. I'm only asking you to take a form. I've been standing in line for 20 minutes and this will only take a few moments."

"Sir, if you don't leave, I'll have to ask security to escort you from the building."

"This is FINE organization you have here. I was going to write something nice about it, but you can forget about that.."

"Sir, please step away from the window and face the wall."

"I get it. Ripple the water and you turn the goons loose."

"Sir, place your hands on top of your head. Don't make any sudden moves."


"I doubt it. We have to hold you until your arraignment."

"And, when is that supposed to happen?"

The judge is in administrative recess until next month. At that time, if the court allows, you'll be appointed a arbitrator who will decide if this requires an administrative inquiry or a criminal prosecution."

"This isn't fair."

"Maybe so, but it's the law and I've sworn to follow the law. Please come this way."

Reflections and Changes

*As soon as I figure out how to make more pages and shift these chapters to one page, I'll do it. Until then, this is the next chapter......I guess I should number them too....I'll add it to my list

Carefully examining his empty tray, Dr. Carlson thought of how something as bland as hospital food could be so fulfilling. While lunch was a feast of broth, tea and Jell-O, the empty plate that once contained a chicken breast, diced potatoes and over-cooked broccoli was far more enjoyable and satisfying. He knew his enjoyment was only embellished by his eight day fast, but he still found a sense of well-being that can only be created by a good meal.

After proving a simple walk wouldn’t cause his collapse, his catheter was removed, as well as his I. V. and he felt free once again. The tests that followed soon after revealed nothing, so his neurologist announced he’d probably be discharged in the morning, as long as there were no complications.

A light knock on his door caught his attention. Soon after the knock, Stephanie came into his room.

“Are you decent?”

“I suppose you can say I am, as long as I don’t decide to wander around with my butt flapping in the breeze.”

“I brought you some clothes. I used the clothes you were wearing for the size. I’m sorry if they aren’t exactly to your taste, but I did the best I could. I kept you other clothes, although I don’t think you’ll want to wear them again.”

Dr. Carlson was thrilled by her actions. His earlier examination of his room revealed he had no clothes, which left him feeling vulnerable. He didn’t like the idea of not even having a pair of trousers and a shirt to put on if he decided to leave.

“I, also, brought your personal effects. The hospital gave them to me when you were admitted. “

“Even better”, was the doctor’s immediate thought. “Thank you. I wondered what happened to my belongings”

“How are you feeling?”

“Wonderful. No catheter, no I.V. and they even fed me.”

Stephanie handed the doctor the bag and watched as he removed the contents one at a time.

“That’s a beautiful locket doctor.”

Dr. Carlson was surprised as he took the small locket from the bag.  Without thinking, he immediately asked: “Did you tell anyone about the locket?”

The shocked look on Stephanie’s face made him regret his outburst. Agonizing over what to say, he decided he could trust her. If she was involved, the locket would have disappeared. Considering the event that left him in the hospital, he realized he needed to tell her and help her with protecting herself.

“That locket was not supposed to be in my possessions. It’s evidence in a crime and what led to the explosion in the lab.”

Stephanie only stared and waited for Dr. Carlson to continue, which he did. He explained the events up to the moment she arrived. When he finished, they both just sat quietly for a few minutes.

“Doctor; what can I do?”

“First, you need to stay quiet about the locket. It’s important enough to kill for, so don’t say anything to anyone. I think you’re safe; if there was any indication you knew, they would have found you and done whatever they needed to get the locket and insure you never said anything.”

“What about you, Doctor?”

I’ll be fine. Eric is supposed to pick me up when I’m discharged tomorrow. I’ll call and make the arrangements after you leave.”

“Can you trust him?”

Stephanie had verbalized one of the nagging thoughts that occupied his mind all day. He wasn’t completely sure.

“I’ll call him to let him know you’re being discharged tomorrow. If he’s involved, he’ll wonder if I know anything and not do anything drastic.”

“That could be dangerous for you.”

“Maybe, but it’s something I can do to help.”

“I don’t like it.”

“Doctor, my curiosity far outweighs any fear. That’s one of the reasons for my career choice. Besides that, you’re a friend.”

“I still don’t like it.”

Stephanie smiled.  The doctor’s concern was touching, and she felt honored he trusted her enough to confide his concerns.  Her smile faded when she realized the implications and possible consequences.

Dr. Carlson took his cell phone from the bag and dialed. In a few moments he spoke: “Hello Eric.”

Listening to the reply on the other end, he quickly said: “I’m to be discharged tomorrow morning.”

A few moments passed and the doctor replied: “No, I’m fine. The tests say I am and my assistant Dr. Benoit thinks so, too.” Holding his phone away from his ear, he added: “Don’t you Doctor?”

Stephanie replied: “Yes, but you wouldn’t listen to me even if you weren’t”

Returning the phone to his ear, a few more moments passed and the Doctor replied: “She’s been checking up on me since I woke up. She’s worried, even though I tell her everything is okay.”

The doctor waited for Eric to finish the conversation and said: “I’ll call you as soon as I know what time.”

Ending the call, the doctor said: ”That’s much better than you calling.”

Stephanie could only reply: “I’m still worried.”

“Me too, but I’m thinking this is best. I’ll be fine, and you need to go home and get some rest. Tomorrow will be a busy day. ”

“Are you coming in tomorrow?”

“I plan on it. It looks like you’ve had a tough time and will need some help.”

“I haven’t been able to do as much as I’d like, especially with the temporary examiner and the lack of evidence to work with.”

“Lack of evidence?”

“After the explosion, there was no power, so the bodies were removed to another morgue. I didn’t realize there was another body, until you told me about what happened. Everything was such a mess, and it was dark, so the body of the man that attacked you must have been transferred with the rest.”

“Then there’s no record of his death, or an autopsy?”

“I’m guessing not. The bodies were only transferred to keep them refrigerated. The records are still in our possession.”

The doctor’s mind started working with the information immediately.  A lot of things were now explained, including the lack of security and his stay without any unwanted visitors. Nobody knew anything except him, whoever the thug worked, Nick and maybe Eric.

“I’ll see you tomorrow Doctor. Call if you need anything.”

“Get some rest and drive carefully.”

Stephanie was only gone for a few minutes, when Dr. Carlson made another call. The familiar voice on the other end made him feel more comfortable than he had since he awoke.

“Hello James. I was so worried.”

“How did you know it was me?”

“You’re so clueless; caller I.D.”

“I forget. Where are you now?”

“I was coming to see you before I went home. Your husband-in-law is lecturing out of town and I’m flying to meet him the day after tomorrow.”

“Good. Wait until 10:30 tonight. I need a ride and you’re better than a cab.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. I’ll explain when you get here. I’ll meet you at the emergency entrance.”

“This is strange, James.”

“I’ll explain everything. I’m ready to leave and have enough of a medical background to know when it’s safe.”

“You were always hard-headed.”

“I’ll see you then.”

Hanging up, Dr. Carlson started working on his explanation. He wanted Carol to not worry, but he, also, wanted her to be safe. Few knew she was his ex-wife, but anyone that knew him, knew how fond he was of her and could use their relationship against him.”

Lying back in his bed, the doctor worked through his plan. His walks during the day allowed him to observe exactly where he was in the hospital. He knew enough about the schedules, and hospital, to know when it was best to quietly slip from his room and out the emergency department. He only had to wait.

A flash of lightning caught the doctor’s attention. Turning off the overhead light, he stared through the open blinds towards the horizon. Another bolt of lightning in the distance indicated a storm was building. It looked as though the weather was changing for the worse. He wondered how much.  

Friday, March 23, 2012

I'm Sorry. I Didn't See You

It was around 2:00 am; the time when the bars close and the drunks wander to their resting place for the night.. Since it wasn't "ladies' night" and the middle of the work week, I didn't expect many drunks, which was good. I was parked on the shoulder to check a location and catch up on some paperwork.

We were building "mow strips" around the posts on guardrail. This involved excavating the dirt, placing forms, placing reinforcement steel and pouring 4 inches of concrete. The end result was a section of the highway that didn't require hand trimming. In the long run, pouring the concrete was cheaper than paying the crew to keep the grass cut.

We'd prepare a section for concrete overnight and pour as soon as we were allowed to close the highway the next evening. Work hours were 8:00 pm to 4:00 am, so to prevent the expense of keeping the concrete plant open for a special pour, we'd only pay a little more for the concrete and avoid the thousands of dollars required for the equipment and crew.

It was a quiet night. After 10:00 pm, the traffic had really settled down. An occasional car would pass down the inside lane we left open. The outside lane was closed for our equipment and trucks. I'd dropped back to check a finished location, so the setup, and crew, were about a half mile ahead. It was getting to the point they would start winding things up, so there wasn't any need for me to stay on location and supervise.

The location I was checking was perfect for stopping and doing my reports. The area between the main lanes and service road was dry and I could park behind the guardrail. Years of highway work taught me to keep something between me and the traffic; guardrail was best.

The highway is loud. During peak times, the noise is around the 80 decibel range, which requires ear protection.You don't realize the effect it can have, until you find how irritated you've become over time. Constantly raising your voice and the cacophony of organized chaos eventually grates your nerves to where they're raw.

It became very quiet. This, when you're on the highway, can be as unnerving as the noise. Absolutely no traffic may mean there's a wreck stopping the traffic. Since the crew was down the road, I knew it wasn't due to our activities, but I still stopped to pay attention.

In the distance, I could hear the engine on the light tower by the crew. After about a minute, I stared having the feeling that something was wrong. Light traffic is understandable, but no traffic is disconcerting. I kept listening, and finally heard the sound of approaching cars. Looking in my rear view mirror, I saw two cars almost pacing each other as they crested an overpass about a quarter mile away. With my thoughts now settled, I went back to my paperwork.

I glanced again in the rear view mirror and saw the two cars still pacing each other. This pushed my "what a bunch of dumbasses" button. If you don't have to, you don't pace a car. A blowout, or weave can cause a wreck. Even worse, if a drunk is driving the wrong way on a four lane divided highway, the inside lane is where they usually drive. If you're in the outside lane, your chances are better on not having a head-on collision. Pacing a car gives you nowhere to go.

I looked down at my paperwork and heard the thump, followed by the sound of grinding metal and tinkling of glass being scattered on the pavement. As soon as I looked up, an early 90's Firebird tore through the guardrail about 50 feet in front of my pickup. The tail end was first and it came to a rest about 20 feet after passing through the guardrail. Immediately, the passenger door opened and all I saw were elbows and the bottom of shoes. The man was in a sprint towards the neighborhood on the other side of the service road. The driver was sitting with a stunned look on his face.

As my mind was registering the scene, a blood curdling scream shattered the calm. Looking across the highway, I saw the other car in the wreck. I bailed from my pickup and ran across the highway, expecting to find mayhem. Since there was no damage on the passenger side of the car, I was dreading finding some woman with an arm torn off from the impact between the two cars. I figured she was driving with her arm resting on the window seal and the impact removed her left arm.

I ran around the car to find the woman sitting in the drivers seat, her cell phone in her right hand and her left hand gesturing wildly as she loudly talked to someone on her phone. I asked if she was okay. It took a few moments, but she said she was.

I crossed the highway and called 911. The operator told me the accident had been reported. I'm guessing it was the woman. Why she was screaming still baffles me. I'm guessing she was scared; I know I was.

The driver of the Firebird was now out of his car surveying the damage. He looked rattled, or drunk. I asked if he was okay. He was, but I could tell his once prized car was now a few hundred dollars worth of scrap. He didn't have anything to say, so we quietly waited for the patrol cars that arrived within a minute.

I stayed at a distance from the officers. They questioned the drivers of the vehicles and didn't have any questions after I told them I only heard the wreck. After a few more minutes, a wrecker arrived. The cops finished their questions, the woman drove away in her damaged car and the officers handcuffed the driver of the Firebird. After placing him in the backseat of one of the patrol cars, the car left, leaving the other officer and the wrecker. It didn't take long for the wrecker to pull the Firebird onto the back deck. He left, the officer left and I stood in front of my pickup sorting through my thoughts about the last 30 minutes.

I'd picked the spot on the shoulder because I thought it would be a nice quiet place to write reports with minimum distractions. Man, was I wrong. Only two cars on the highway -  going in the same direction -  and they manged to wreck. To make matters worse, the supposed safe spot was only safe because they waited a few moments to wreck. Fifty feet earlier and I'd been t-boned by the Firebird.

I had a few extra cones in the back of my truck. I threw them out to mark the twisted guardrail and left the scene. I finished my paperwork at the office.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Night on a Bridge

I was riding shotgun with my boss, so I had time to observe the scenery as we headed north. A phone call from officials required us to go to a bridge about 80 miles north to see what we could do about a log jam.

The woods were a far different sight than the year before. It had been that long since I traveled the route and hurricane Rita changed the landscape tremendously. With 120 mph sustained winds at landfall, little wasn't affected and the damage was still obvious.

It was the middle of spring, so the underbrush was thin, which revealed the piles of trees and snapped branches in the woods. Old growth pines might be snapped a few dozen feet above the ground. The remainders stood like strange posts left by a determined giant. Below, the tangled remains of branches and upper trunks cluttered the ground. Chaotic was the best description. Anyone that tried to walk through these woods would have a tough time. In the upcoming summer, it would be suicidal. If the snakes or insects didn't get you, the heat would, as you fought through the poison ivy, honeysuckle and blackberry vines.

Rain ended right before we received the call, which was the end of days of torrential rains. We'd told the crews to go home that morning, since there wasn't anything we could do. We wondered about the next few days. Watersheds were full and the ground was soaked. It might be days before it was dry enough to work.

We arrived at the bridge late that morning. The Sabine River was at the top of its banks and full of dead trees and branches. We walked onto the bridge and peered down at the jam against the columns. There wasn't much to see, but we knew we could clear the jam. Our plan was to start the following morning, but after a phone call, we were told to mobilize and start as soon as possible.

I spent the entire trip back making phone calls to line up equipment and people. We needed a long stick excavator to reach and clear the jam. I found one and arranged for a heavy hauler for delivery. It would arrive during the late afternoon.

We had the changeable message boards and a light tower. The flaggers and advance warning would be subcontracted, so I just needed an operator and a few hands for support. By late afternoon, everything was arranged, equipment was hooked to our trucks and we were off to work until the logs were removed. I phoned my wife to let her know I'd be home whenever. A stop at a convenience store was a must. I needed the first of the numerous cups of coffee I'd need before the night was over. I'd been up since 4:00 am; it would be a long day before the night was over.

We arrived as the light was fading. Heavy scud clouds were lifting, but no clearing was forecast until after dark. Traffic was light, so setting up the message boards didn't take very long. Before I was through, the excavator arrived and was unloaded. We immediately closed the highway, the flaggers took control of traffic, we walked the heavy machine out on the bridge deck and the light tower was placed in the best location. We only had minutes before the only light we'd have would come from the light tower or hand lights we all carried.

Our long excavator had 60 feet of reach, so it was limited to what it could move. We'd kicked around the idea of using a crane with a grappling hook, but realized the danger of the hook hanging on something and pulling the crane into the river. The excavator, since it only had a bucket, could maneuver the debris from the columns and release anything too heavy.

The operator started the process of moving the tons of debris. On one side of the center span, it didn't take but a few minutes to remove the debris, find the larger tree and release the entire mess into the flow. The other side was different. The debris was thicker and extended further up the river. It would take some time to remove enough to see what was jammed against the columns and causing the jam.

For the next few hours, I'd take turns with my boss as we directed the operator to the different spots we felt would contribute to getting us to whatever was lodged between two columns. The operator couldn't see the river below, so he relied completely on our hand signals. It was tedious at best. The only thing to break the monotony was watching one of the helpers work off the caffeine of two energy drinks. He was worried about falling asleep, so he'd downed the two drinks without eating. He was wound tighter than a three dollar watch and paced continuously.

During our work, the skies cleared and the wind changed to the north. What was a pleasant cool breeze during the day was now uncomfortably cold. I found a jacket and spent some time just looking at the sky. The stars were beautiful and the cone of light that was our work area appeared surreal.

We finally reached what caused the jam. As we neared this tree, we'd found larger and larger trees to remove from the pile. The big problem we now faced was that the tree was mostly submerged. We had no idea how large it was or how it was lodged. We knew it was big; the excavator was having a hard time with even budging the tree, so we were beginning to wonder if it would require more equipment.

Finally, my boss had an idea. Since the excavator didn't have the strength to swing the large tree away, he decided to push it upriver, and try to walk the machine towards the center span. If successful, the end of the tree would be caught in the current and the other end could be held from the column to prevent further lodging.

The first few tries were futile. A few "feels" with the excavator revealed another small tree deep underwater. This tree was holding the larger tree. After a little manipulation, it was released and the big tree was now free...if we could move it.

The hydraulics squalled on the excavator as the operator pushed the tree away from the columns. With a little maneuvering of controls, the operator was able to inch the tree towards the center span. He continued and I crossed my fingers it wouldn't find something else to hang on. After a few minutes, enough of the tree was caught in the current so the end started downstream. The operator quickly released the end and hurried to the other end to insure it wouldn't hang on the column. He pushed on the end of the tree until it was clear. It was now free to move downstream.

Since there was no traffic, I hurried across the bridge to watch the tree as it left. When I reached the other side and shone my flashlight toward the water, I saw the upper end of the tree start to pass underneath. Hurrying back to the other side, I looked down to find at least twenty feet of the trunk, including the large root ball still on the upstream side of the bridge. Doing some quick calculations, I realized the tree was over 80 feet  in length. I went back across to watch as it passed.

It took about a minute for the tree to finally reach a point I couldn't see it by flashlight any longer. I wondered if it would be caught on the next bridge, which was over 30 miles to the south. I doubted it would; there were too many places for the tree to hang on the winding river. Even if it did, we would be glad to move it, but they had to let me get some sleep.

It was after 4:00 am when we finally had everything off the road and hooked back up for the trip to the office. The haul truck would be called in the morning. We left the excavator on the shoulder and headed out.

I stopped at the first store that was open for a cup of coffee and something to snack on. It was a poor second to my choice of a hot breakfast, but in the boonies, there's little to find at that time. Still, it tasted good.  The coffee was fresh and much better than the stale crap available during the hours before. I was ready to get home, but I had to drop a message board at the office first.

We arrived at the office a little after five. By the time everything was stored and accounted for, the sky was getting light to the east. I gave a hand a ride to his house, so the sun was almost up when I finally started for home. I was glad I was heading west, since my eyes felt like they were full of sand and the thought of driving into the rising sun was far from a pleasant thought.

I had time to think as I drove home. I thought about the power of the river. the hurricane that provided the lumber for the jam and how the things that are familiar can change overnight. That, and catching a few hours of sleep. We still had other jobs going on and I had things to do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Campaign Thoughts

Campaigns are important. They allow the potential candidates to tell the common folks what they're up to, even if these common folks don't believe the majority of what's said. So, the campaign rules need to be strict and no exceptions allowed:

-No candidate shall be allowed to campaign on television, or on the radio. The internet is acceptable, but spamming a potential voter shall cause immediate disqualification. Use of the United Postal Service is acceptable, but all mailings shall be by individual stamps applied by the candidate. This process shall be certified by affidavit.
-All candidates shall write their proposals on a legal pad and deliver this information to potential voters personally. Photocopies are acceptable, but the photocopies must be made by the candidate and certified by affidavit.
-All public appearances shall require the candidate to provide lunch, shade and the media shall not have any cameras, or any other device which records the event.
-Incumbents shall not campaign except for the last 20 days before an election.
-Incumbents shall not use any public conveyance, employees or materials for campaign purposes. Any campaigning during the regular business hours of the incumbent shall result in immediate termination of their public service. Misuse of public funds shall be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I know this sounds a little harsh and would require a tremendous amount of work, but that's what we want. Public servants that are willing to work for their money and honor their constituents by personally allowing them to vet the candidate.

You can't really judge a person, until you look them in the eye and shake their hand. Personally, I prefer someone with a strong, firm handshake. The thought of a potential President with the handshake of a little girl upsets me. As it is at this point, I have no way of finding out if this is true.

Be Careful For What You Wish For

We had severe drought conditions last year. There was a constant wish for rain, so the wish was granted. Six inches plus fell in the last 24 hours. I really don't know what the real total was because the rain gauge overflowed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Arrogance

Most everyone I know has a concern about their finances. Between the lack of raises, the devaluation of their money, shaky investments and the thousands of extra dollars required for fuel due to unbridled speculation, the outlook of relief is cloudy at best. Meanwhile, hard earned confiscated tax dollars are being wasted for this Spring Break.

The worst thing about this is the fact this isn't being reported by the U.S. media.

I've thought about this some more. From what I've found, the story is not being promoted, which indicates many in the media understand the negative impact of this information. This will only increase the speed of demise of many outlets. They can't hide everything; their efforts are exposed and in the end, the United States citizen will be even more irritated. Call it the beginning of the end for this administration. The next step will be the desperation of the media to increase revenue - at any cost. I don't think the current administration will like the price. 

This is getting fun. Apparently, the WH asked for removal of the story for security reasons. Okay...the security of the nation? Or, the security of knowing you've allowed a 13 year old to go alone on vacation with costs to the taxpayer?  

For you with kids: If you didn't realize you could send your kids, with an entourage of 25 Secret Service agents to Mexico when they were thirteen, I'm afraid you just missed out. The offer is over.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Something You Should Have and Run

You should have an anti-malware program. There are some really good ones on the web that are free.

 So, why did I write this post? A close relative, after describing a really, really slow computer with memory errors, asked for my help. After running an anti-malware  program, 350 spying critters were found to be running around in her computer. Not only were they slowing down the computer, they were contributing to bandwidth, which costs extra money when the monthly allowance is depleted.

Due to some glitch with Blogger, I can't comment so I'll answer the question.

I use Malwarebytes and Avast. Both are the free versions, which don't have all of the features or support. Still, they're what I need. 

Also, I use Ccleaner to get rid of the garbage Windows accumulates and keep the registry fine tuned. 

Freedom and Rights Lesson for the Occupiers

Freedom and rights are two important things, but really useless if they don't apply to everyone. I know this sounds silly, but the reality is that no matter how much your rights give you the freedom to say, or do just about anything, as long as they don't harm others, neither give you the right, or freedom to annoy, block my way, ruin my day or mandate I smell your unwashed body. Otherwise, your liberty ends at the tip of your nose. Take a shower and go find a job.

It's Monday

The start of another work week, which as usual, will require a tremendous effort on my part to not tell some people they're fat, lazy, selfish pukes and are warts on the ass of decency.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

Yep. The Red Buds are blooming; as well as the Azaleas. The grass is starting to grow, pollen is found in drifts on the windshield of the car. The temperature is reaching 80 degrees and the mosquitoes will carry off a newborn calf, if you don't tie it to something.

I know Spring has an entirely different feel in many other places, but not here. It's the start of the oppressive heat and humidity that won't end until late in the year. Until then, it's sweat and yard work that never seems to end.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Local Craziness

Yesterday, a man on trial for aggravated sexual assault, left the courtroom during a recess, retrieved a gun from his pickup and started shooting at family members. The tally? One dead innocent bystander; four shot and the gunman is wounded, while attempting to flee. He made it to his truck, while the local law enforcement officers shot his truck to doll rags. 

After his truck was disabled, he ran to a local construction fab shop, where he was disarmed by workers and eventually given to the police. He ends up in the hospital for treatment of minor wounds and is now in jail with one count of murder and whatever else they can pin on his sorry ass. 

Reports indicate this man had other felony convictions, including firearms possession, which is probably associated with him being a convicted felon. 

So, how the hell did he get to walk around free, when he had prior felony convictions and was dangerous? My theory? Some piss-poor judge allowed bail, which was probably paid by some ambulance chaser looking to add to their record of wins. I don't know for sure, but in the end, this pistule on the ass of society shot four people, ran over his wounded daughter while escaping and left a woman that was only at the courthouse for license tags dead at the front door. 

Personally, I think they need to make the officers that returned fire take some extra time at the range. They need to learn how to shoot through cars and guarantee the local county will not have to pay to for prosecuting these types of reprobates in the future.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Newspaper Story on a Hot Summer Morning

It was a tough month. My mother had a T.I.A. and I was still shifting through legal documents, shuffling temporary care and wondering where it would all lead. There is no preparation for such things, unless a close family member with experience is available for reference. I didn’t have this, so I was fumbling through the entire mess.

Work was an added burden. I returned a few days after my mother was home, but I was still on edge with the details. I spent too much of each day with thoughts of how overwhelmed I was. All I could do was plod on and work with what was available.

I arrived to work one morning to catch up on things and spend a few minutes reading the news. During this process, a local article caught my eye: “Local Firefighter Missing”.  I examined the article and found my brother’s name.

I spent a few moments determining it was spelled correctly and then dialed his cell phone. After a few rings, I reached his voice mail. I dialed his home, which led to his answering machine. A call to his wife ended with the same results. I told the secretary I was leaving, with a brief explanation. I was at my mother’s house within a half hour.

I called my wife, who was with family at the beach. She had heard, but was too upset to call immediately. Her family tried to find more information but was unsuccessful. We spoke for a few moments. I told her I would keep in touch.

I finally was given the cell phone of the local fire official that was heading up the search for my brother. He explained my brother was in the process of finding a lost radio controlled airplane for a friend the evening before and never returned from the marsh where it crashed.   They had searched all night, but were unsuccessful. I couldn’t do anything, so I called my older brother to tell him what was happening.

We talked for a few minutes. We were both a little surprised on the term “firefighter” as a description of my brother. He was between jobs, but he’d been in industrial maintenance and marine electronics his entire career, except for his time in the Coast Guard. We both knew he was a volunteer fireman for a rural community, but as time went on, we found it was much more than a part time job. 

I ended my call with my brother with the promise to keep him informed. As I was collecting my thoughts, my wife's niece called to offer her sympathy for my loss. I could only say: “I guess they found him and he’s dead.” She apologized for breaking the news. She thought I knew already, since the news reported a Coast Guard helicopter found the body.

Unless you’ve had this happen, there’s no way I can explain what goes through your mind at a moment like this. Hope fades like a winter sunset and the cold logical knowledge you can never speak again to someone you love becomes a harsh reality. 

I spent a few moments composing my thoughts and called my wife. She could hardly speak. She knew before I did and was overwhelmed with grief. She wanted to call, but couldn’t. I understood; we’d been through a lot and this was a shock to both of us.

After a few more minutes, I called my brother. I think he, like me, might have suspected the worse and we made plans on when he would arrive. We agreed to not tell my mother until he arrived. She was still recovering and her mind wasn’t as clear as it needed to be.

I made more phone calls to family. I really don’t remember who, or the details. My mind was absorbed with other things. I dreaded telling my mother; she’d buried another son only three years before.

Eventually my brother arrived. My mother was surprised by his appearance, which led to me telling her my brother was gone. She asked the details. I explained, although I knew she didn’t really understand. She was having a hard time just functioning. My niece, who was staying during the day, hugged her and held her for a few minutes. I wandered the house wondering about life and how it takes unexpected, and unwelcome, paths.

Over the next few hours, more information became available. I eventually spoke with my sister-in-law. Her grief only added to my own. She had spent the entire night with the search party and was a wreck. I could only offer my help, which meant very little at the time.

Family arrived to help and console. Eventually, my sister-in-law arrived from Florida with my nephew and his fiancĂ©. They would stay at my mother’s. Her daughter would stay with friends. Her children were too much for my mother, although I don’t think anyone, except me, realized how much it did. She was as fragile as a human can be and the young children were too overwhelming.

The next few days passed in a fog. I know there were many visitors, food from neighbors and the general feeling of helplessness while a funeral is planned. The viewing was set for Friday and the ceremony would follow on Saturday.

The viewing opened my eyes. I knew my brother was a volunteer fireman and was working on his second level of E.M.T. certification. I had no idea how much he contributed and had made a mark on his colleagues. They loved and respected him as much as I did. I was overwhelmed and proud, although I felt as though I was discovering facts about a stranger. 

The funeral was a ceremony only. My brother would eventually be buried in the Veteran’s Cemetery in Houston. I didn't go to the burial. My mother couldn’t go, so I stayed to insure she would be okay.

During the ceremony, Boy Scouts honored my brother with a song. I knew he had been involved with his son, but I didn’t know how much. People spoke with fondness about knowing my brother. Friends I hadn’t seen in years stopped to offer their sympathy. My sister-in-law spent a long time detailing my brother’s successes in life, including his time in the Coast Guard, his pilot’s license, time in the Boy Scouts and many other things that most people never knew. It seemed to drag on, but I knew this was the last time she would ever see him- even in death - and I understood how she was grappling with the loss. It was too sudden; she was so fragile. 

Eventually, the firemen held a short ceremony that I can only remember as “Last Call”. The chief called the dispatcher with words that they were signing off. The dispatcher responded and I broke down. He was gone. Only memories remained and they deepened the sadness.

As I left the funeral home, I looked towards the fire trucks that filled the parking lot of the funeral home. Every local city was represented. I had no idea how many lives my brother had touched, but there were many and the respect was obvious. The setting sun held the trucks in silhouette, which was fitting. A life was over, so was the day.

I've spent many a moment wondering what happened. My brother was in exceptional physical shape, knew the dangers of hyperthermia and was trained as a first responder. He was found with an empty bottle of water at his side. The autopsy only revealed “Death by Environmental Exposure”, which indicated the horrible heat on that day claimed him before he realized it was too late.

It was typical for my brother to help others, which led to looking for the lost radio controlled airplane of a friend. This action was similar to his pursuit of E.M.T. certification and the stories about saving lives and fighting fires. I never knew, but I do now. I can only honor him with a few short paragraphs. It seems insignificant when compared to his life. I miss him and will grieve for a long, long time.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Pause

Dr. Stephanie Benoit sat quietly as she thought of her father. Her memories were becoming less clear as she aged, but she still clearly remembered a few occasions that were notable.

One was the day he received his paramedic license. It was a grand celebration, with family and friends spending an entire Sunday congratulating her father for his efforts. At the time, she didn’t realize the significance; especially since she couldn’t understand how he’d fit his hours of training between hours of holding down a construction job.  She only knew how wonderful she felt all day.

Another was the day in school when the assistant principal came for her during class. She was nervous and wondered what transgression prompted the visit. When she was kind, and sympathetic, the confusion turned to fear. When she saw her mother at the front entrance, she knew something terrible happened. Between the tears, she learned her father was killed in an automobile accident. A large truck slammed into the side of her father’s ambulance, while crossing a busy intersection. The driver said he never heard a thing. Later tests determined he was almost clinically deaf and soon lost his CDL.

Stephanie studied Dr. Carlson’s face for a few moments. His face was still surprising, since his eyebrows and mustache were missing. The explosion in the lab singed the hair and the nurses cut them short to remove the unsightly hair.  A few small cuts were now almost healed. The redness from the flash disappeared within days.  If she didn’t know better, she’d only think he was sleeping.

Stephanie had stayed with the doctor every day since the accident. Usually, it was the hour before work, since she could delegate that time. She’d sit and hope he would wake, although the hope was starting to fade.  The neurologist was confused, since there wasn’t any severe brain injury. He knew that the removal of physical causes only left mental reasons for coma. There were no tests, or procedures to cure; only the patient could awake, or not.

Stephanie changed her focus to staring out the window. The last few days were beautiful, but the forecast was for a change, with the change for the worse. While she stared, she never noticed when the doctor opened his eyes.

“Would you get me some water? I feel as though I haven’t had any for days.”

Startled, Stephanie could only turn and stare. For a moment, she was confused, but the confusion was soon replaced by extreme joy, which brought tears to her eyes.

“You’re awake!” was all she could say.

“Of course I’m awake.”

“I’m sorry, I guess you don’t know.

“Know what?”

“You’ve been in a coma for the last eight days.”

The doctor could only stare while he absorbed the information. “Eight days?” filled his thoughts.

After some time, Stephanie asked: “How do you feel?”

After a short thoughtful pause, Dr. Carlson replied: “Like I need to get up soon. My back feels as though I’ve been in bed too long.”

Before Stephanie could say anything, a voice came from the nurse’s intercom: “Can I help you?” A little surprised, she realized the doctor had pushed the call button. 

“I’m thirsty. Can I have some water please?”

The nurse didn’t answer. Within seconds the door opened; she peered in for a few seconds; then hurried away without closing the door.

“I’m guessing she has specific instructions from my doctor. Who is my doctor?

“Your primary care physician is the same you’ve had for years. The neurologist is Dr. Langham.”

“Of Langham and Porter?”

“I think so.”

“They have a good reputation.”

“Doctor, Do you remember what happened.”

Dr. Carlson didn’t answer. He silently lay in his bed and collected his thoughts. Before he could answer, the door opened and Dr. Langham entered the room.

“It’s good you’re awake, Dr. Carlson.”

”I’d say it is. Another week of this hospital food will be the death of me.”

Dr. Langham didn’t catch the joke until Dr. Carlson smiled.

“I need to run a few tests and watch you a day or two. Do you remember what happened?”

Dr. Carlson remembered every detail of the event, from the moment the thug entered the room, until he faded into unconsciousness after the electrical discharge.”

“I remember driving to work on a particularly nasty morning. After that, I don’t remember anything.”

Dr. Carlson was cautious and wanted more time to think about the morning at the morgue. He felt the man that died wasn’t acting alone. What was most disturbing was the fact that few would know he had the locket. Nick was alone when he stopped by the morgue the evening before.

“Your white cell count is a little high, so I’m going to start you on antibiotics.”

“Judging by how it feels, I’m thinking everything will return to normal if you’d remove this damned catheter.”

“I’ll have the nurse remove it.  I only require you to make a victory lap down the hall to insure you won't pass out when you stand. Do you have any pain?”

“My back is sore, but that’s typical for any long period in bed.”

"Grasp my hands Doctor." 

Dr. Carlson grabbed his hands and squeezed as hard as he could. The small grimace on Dr. Langham's face let him know he still had his strength. Dr. Langham appeared pleased.

"No problems there. Do you feel any numbness, or having problems with your sight?"

"Other than astigmatism and the usual hyperopia problems with old age, I'd say my sight is perfect."

Stephanie, realizing she had the doctor's new glasses, responded with: "I have your glasses. I'm afraid your old glasses didn't last the accident, so these are your replacements."

After placing the glasses on his face, the doctor took a few moments to determine the fit, which turned out to be perfect. They were identical to his other pair; Stephanie had taken time to insure they were the same. 

With a smile, the doctor made the remark: "I might be wrong about you missing your true calling. These are perfect."

Stephanie beamed after the remark and, again, realized how fond she was of the doctor. 

In the beginning of her residency, she felt Dr. Carlson was too harsh; his demands appeared arbitrary and capricious. After time, she realized he only wanted her to be the best in her field. He rewarded her performance on her last birthday. The gold plated scalpel he gave her had the inscription "Scientia De Mortis" engraved on the handle. "Knowledge From Death". The scalpel was framed in a shadow box on the wall of her small office at the morgue. She would value it forever. When she finally took her test, her experience with the doctor guaranteed her pick of where she wanted to practice. He was rare in his field. How he choose his assistants wasn't known, but in the end, their skills were sought; few had the degree of training she would eventually have. 

"I'll be back in a few hours, doctor. Try to stay out of trouble."

After the neurologist left, Dr. Carlson asked Stephanie: "What about Nick?"

"I thought you didn't remember anything?"

"I remember that much. Have you heard from Nick?"

"I haven't, but Eric has something to tell you. He's come in every day and told me to call if you woke." 

"I'll call him. You have enough to do. What about the morgue? You said there was an explosion."

"It was mostly cosmetic, although there was substantial electrical damage. Since you demanded all wiring and conduit runs were exposed when you built your lab, the wiring was complete yesterday. The electricians told me to thank you for making their life easier."

"My first morgue was an electrical nightmare. Lights would flicker, receptacles were a crap shoot and the entire mess was a constant pain in my butt. I talked to an electrical engineer about the problems and he told me the best way to avoid them in the future."

"I need to go doctor. I've been swamped, and the temporary examiner is only focused on his golf game. I do have some results from the samples we sent off before the accident. I'll review them, but you should be back in the morgue in a few days to make the final determination."

"One other thing: a really pleasant woman stopped by a few times during the last week. She said her name was Carol Stanton and that she was like family. I told her I would tell you she stopped by."

Dr. Carlson paused in his thoughts at the comment. Carol was definitely family, since she was his wife up to almost thirty years ago. They parted as friends when they both realized their marriage would never last their careers. They never had children together, although she had two from her second marriage. He still missed her on some occasions."

"Thank you, Dr. Benoit."

Stephanie paused after she heard the doctor's words. It was a first and a compliment. She hid her tears as she left the room. 

Stephanie was gone only for a few seconds, when the phone rang. Waiting for it to ring a few more times, Dr. Carlson finally answered with a short "hello"

"Dr. Carlson?"

Recognizing Eric's voice, he immediately replied: "Eric. What about Nick?"

"Doctor, It's very important you don't say anything to anyone about the explosion in the morgue."

The doctor didn't reply. Thoughts raced through his mind about the event, the events of the day before and the fact the man that died in his morgue wanted the locket. 

"I'll tell you about Nick after you're released. I want to pick you up at the hospital when you're discharged"

A feeling of foreboding came over the doctor. There were too many unanswered questions and his immediate thought was that dangerous times were ahead. 

"I'll call you and let you know."

"Thanks Doc. I'll see you later"

As the doctor analyzed the last few days, his thoughts turned to the tangled information that seemed to lead to something larger than what appeared. He would have a few days to think about these things, but knew any contribution to determining what it was would never happen while he stayed at the hospital. 

"I'm here to see if you can walk."

The doctor looked up at the nurse that entered the room. 

"It's a good damn thing you're here. I've had all this catheter I want. Let's go make the "victory lap", so I can pee like a normal human being."

Friday, March 9, 2012

About Being Crazy

After a party, a friend was telling me how his new girlfriend thought I was crazy. I laughed; he became serious, and stated: "No; not funny; know; insane"

I thought about it. At first, I was a little worried. Were there any repercussions if someone considers you insane? Since, my behavior was well within what I considered "normal", I wondered what inspired the perception. Was it something I said? What did I do? Is she the only person that feels this way? 

So, after ten minutes of introspection, I came to the conclusion my friend was pulling my leg, or that it was a little nice to be considered crazy. It keeps people on edge and they generally won't make the mistake of double-crossing a crazy person.

Violence and Other Things You Rarely Think About

Years ago,  while riding around with my brother, and a friend, in my brother's open jeep, we decided to stop at a hamburger spot for a quick bite. They had both finished high school and I was on my last year. Young and dumb would be a good description of the three of us, since we were stopping in a part of town that wasn't nearly as nice as it once was.

We stopped, got the orders and returned to the jeep to enjoy. As we were eating, a crowd of about 15 young ethnic men came out of nowhere and surrounded the jeep. Apparently, a group of young punks in a mustang decided to ride through a neighborhood shouting racial slurs, which irritated the young men. They asked if we'd seen anyone, which returned the answer: "No". We really didn't think much of it, and returned to eating.

Within a few minutes, the leader/speaker of the crowd decided he wanted a bite of our friend's hamburger. His answer was "no", and all hell broke loose. Within seconds, we were pelted with rocks and pieces of asphalt. My brother, who never faltered, started the jeep, threw it in reverse and "hauled ass" in reverse for two blocks. Meanwhile, the crowd followed for the first block, while continuing to throw whatever they could find.

After turning down a side street, and placing a few blocks between us and the crowd, we stopped to access the damage. My brother had a few bruises; I had a cut on my face from a rock that shattered against the roll-over bar and our friend was bleeding like a stuck pig from his mouth. He'd taken a direct hit in the mouth. After a trip to the emergency room, he received a bunch of stitches and the promise of some dental work.

Long story short: the police couldn't find anyone, friends would have burned down half the town in retribution and I could only describe my feeling as sick to my stomach. Between the anger, fear, guilt for escaping with a light injury and the general feeling that the entire group of young men deserved something more painful than burning in Hell for a few weeks, I realized when it comes right down to it, nobody can protect you better than you.

On any other day, we'd have been hunting somewhere, and the young punks would have dealt their "justice" as a thinning herd. Unfortunately, we didn't have a gun - or maybe it was fortunate. I'm thinking the massacre of three shotguns on the group would have left few alive, if we could have reached our shotguns. In an open jeep, there's little to protect you from unruly crowds.

So, in the end, there was only three people to blame. We'd left ourselves exposed, failed to enter a sometimes rough section of town properly armed and learned the hard lesson that such things in life will bring. You live and you learn, but more than anything else: you never forget that violence is only one moment away. Knowing this is important. Protecting yourself is more important and a huge part of protection is being aware of your surroundings and avoiding being a target.

Since that time, I've avoided any type of crowd. Besides making me nervous, I know that any crowd is only as controlled as the dumbest, craziest lunatic involved.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

So, What's The Deal?

I went to examine a project site in my home town. The proposed site is in a residential area that was developed to attract potential home buyers with the money to build large homes. Somewhere during the development, a rather bright bureaucrat, or government official, decided to build low income apartments in the middle of the area. So, now the property values have plummeted, the area is developing the urban blight of closed businesses and anyone with the ability to leave is doing so like a scalded dog.

So, what's the deal? What kind of dumbass would allow such an obvious stealing of worth, tax value and the introduction of people that don't give a rodent's fanny about their neighborhood? How can you expect any positive outcome from displacing people that pay taxes and keep their homes well kept for those that wander the streets, deal drugs, steal at every chance and leave their 44 oz empties up and down the streets?

This is insanity.

I Need to Write Something

I really do, but the words seem to be elusive. Maybe later today or tomorrow. Until then, we now return you to your regular scheduled program.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Small Changes

Carl's eyes snapped open when the loud rock music pierced through his slumber. Quickly, he slid his feet to the floor, turned off his clock radio and adjusted to the new morning. Standing slowly, he stretched his legs and checked his balance before he started his day.

Like every morning for the last five years, he paused for a moment to think of his wife. After 25 years of marriage, she announced one evening she wanted a divorce. The following year was a rocky period of turmoil and attorneys. After the final decisions were made, he signed the papers and walked away with a new life. She got the house, and her own retirement. He left with most of his retirement and the house he was raised in. She sold the house and moved to a neighboring town. He moved into his family home that he intended to sell - until the divorce. He never saw her, but he ran across her sister every now and then. She always had the same report: she was worried because her sister was not well and refused any help.

Carl remembered all the good years and the confusion he felt during the divorce. Finding he was having a hard time coping, he sought the help of his family doctor. After a few visits to a referred therapist, and the help of the internet, he finally accepted their marriage was the victim of his wife's untreated depression. The more he read, the more he found that the disorder was far more destructive than many realized. Still, this knowledge didn't remove the scars that pulled at his heart. Every morning brought thoughts of his wife and the loud music insured he wouldn't lay in bed and brood on his loss. He found this was best and necessary.

After a stop in the bathroom, Carl walked to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. Looking out the window,  he made his plan for the day. The heavy fall of leaves in the yard, and the high deck of clouds were signs he needed to rake and get the leaves in the mulching pile before the approaching front arrived. He figured he had about a day before the rain started, which was about how long he thought it would take. He'd start after breakfast.

Stepping out the back door always reminded Carl of his youth. He'd be off to school, to work in the yard, or off on a date until he walked out the back door to start his life. That was a long time ago. The loss of his brother and parents meant he was now alone with his memories. In one way he found it ironic that his life had made such a long circle to arrive at the same place it started. In another, he realized that without the events of his life, he wouldn't have been able to retire early two years ago. When his brother died during the process of his divorce, some things that worried him disappeared. Having a place to stay, and not having to worry about his brother were a sad relief. It took some of the edge off constant pressure that was slowly eroding his ability to cope.

Carl opened the shed and retrieved his rake. On the wall was the singed spot above the work bench. He thought about the spot for a moment. His brother, who always seemed to be in trouble, created the damage when he decided to fabricate a homemade bomb from his father's reloading powder. He might have been successful, but being careless with his apparatus caused two wires to short and ignite the small pile of powder he felt his father would never notice was gone. The flash, and small fire, burned the top of the bench and singed the wall. His brother, less eyebrows and unrepentant, tried to hide his effort, but accepted his punishment with the usual stoic expression he always had when he was in trouble. It was the same expression at the end of his only marriage, when he was arrested, and what he wore at Carl's last visit to the hospital.  The years of neglect, drug abuse and hepatitis led him to a charity hospital in another town. It broke his heart to see him there, but it was a relief to not worry about him breaking into the home of his dead parents again. It happened a year before; a smoldering cigarette burned the sleeping bag he used as a bed and cost Carl a month of weekends to repaint the smoke damaged walls.

Carl started raking and piling the leaves. As he worked, he noticed Marie, the seven year old daughter of his next door neighbors, by the small kennel they kept in their backyard. Completely enclosed, with outside runs and concrete, it was always well kept and the Chihuahuas they bred rarely barked, unless it was time for their morning feeding and exercise. They were tuned up as Marie carefully sprayed the outside runs with a hose. She looked at Carl and waved. Carl waved back and continued with his task.

After a few minutes, Carl realized Marie was standing next to him as he worked. He stopped, smiled and said "Good morning, Marie." She smiled, which made her dark eyes sparkle, and asked if she could help.

With a half smile and stern look, Carl replied: "You need to ask your mother and only if you're finished with your work."

Before Marie could answer, her mother called from the back door: "Marie. We have someone coming to see the puppies. Come help me and quit bothering Mr. Carl."

Carl smiled and waved: "She's not bothering me; I like the company."

Marie's mother smiled and replied: "When we're through showing the puppies, she can help you rake the leaves; if you can put up with her."

Carl turned to Marie: "I'll save you a few, but you have to bring your own rake."

Marie just smiled, skipped across the yard, and waved before she disappeared into the house with her mother. Carl watched for a moment and then scanned the lowering sky. He could smell the change in the weather. It would be raining before morning.

Carl liked his neighbors. They moved in right after his parents died and called when his brother almost burned the house down. Their call to the fire department probably saved the house. Their call to him, instead of the police, helped avoid more problems with his brother. They were kind, gracious and eventually became friends. Their help when he moved in was invaluable. Between his messy divorce and death of his brother, moving had been a tough project, until they offered their pickup and time to help. He thanked them every chance he could by growing a garden larger than he needed and furnishing them with vegetables every chance he could.

Carl heard a car pull into the driveway next door. A grim looking woman and sloppy young man caught his attention as they stepped from the car. As she flipped a cigarette towards the street, she spoke to the young man: "You drive worse than you father. I don't know why I let you drive."

As they disappeared from his view towards the front of his neighbor's house, he realized he had an immediate dislike for the woman. Besides being rude and inconsiderate, the way she carried herself signaled arrogance and disrespect for others. Carl thought: "I don't know if I could sell a dog to someone like that."

After a few minutes, Marie, he mother and the prospective buyers appeared out the back door. As they walked to the kennel, Carl overheard their conversation. Marie's mother was discussing the breeding of her dogs and how all their papers were in order. Carl continued working and thought about the conversations with his neighbors about their dogs.

Jose, and Kelly, raised the small dogs to supplement their income, which allowed Kelly to stay home and be there for Maria. Kelly was a latchkey kid and swore to do everything she could to avoid working and having Maria stay in day care. Jose felt the same, but their finances demanded more than what he earned. Their ten year plan was to pay off their house, so they didn't have to raise Chihuahuas, which they loved, but hated to see go. Every one they raised tugged at their heart and they weren't so naive to know that they all didn't go to places they would have wished. Kelly hated that part of the process, especially when she watched how it affected Maria.

While Carl thought, Kelly, Maria and the prospective buyers stepped out from the kennel. The woman spoke first: "I really like that little fawn runt." She'll be perfect for our small male. Hopefully, she'll throw small puppies and earn her keep."

Carl examined Maria's face and knew she didn't like the woman. She quietly watched the woman as she spoke and never smiled. Unlike what he observed in the past, there was no smile, or hope. He knew she didn't want the puppy to leave with this woman and hoped they would go away.

"We have two more places to stop before we make our decision. We'll call and let you know; one way or the other."

Carl went back to raking and paid little more attention to their fading conversation as they walked to the car in front. He was thinking of Snitch, his beagle when he was a child. They were full time companions from Snitch’s eighth week to the day he was hit by a car when he was two years old. Carl remembered the horror he felt when it happened and still refused to plant anything over the place he was buried in the yard. That was his first and last dog. He never wanted another. No other dog could replace Snitch.

Hearing a noise, Carl turned to find Maria heading his way with a leaf rake. She never said a word. She only started raking, which caused Carl to smile. The rake was taller than Maria and the only way she could make any progress was pushing with the rake to make small piles, which Carl hauled to the mulch pile behind the shed. They continued until Kelly called Maria for lunch. After lunch, she soon returned to help Carl finish his project at mid-afternoon.

"Would you like a glass of water, Maria?"

"Yes sir" she replied and went to sit on the small bench by Carl's back door. Carl returned with two glasses of ice water, sat next to Maria and studied the sky. He was glad the raking was finished. If he had waited, the rain would have made raking twice the job and twice as unpleasant.

Neither spoke for a few minutes, but Maria was the first: "I don't want her to buy the runt."

Carl, knowing exactly who she was referring to, still asked: "Don't want who to buy the runt?"

"That lady; she was mean and rough with the puppies."

Carl studied her small face and noted the anguish. Maria was struggling with things she knew she couldn't control, but was determined to find a way to change. Carl waited for a few moments before speaking: "Well, maybe they won't be back." and thought of Maria's term for the puppy: "the runt". In one of their conversations, Maria explained they never gave the puppies names. It was a rule; if you gave them names, it was harder to let them go.

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Both were absorbed in their thoughts: Maria's on the puppy she was fond of and Carl's on the maturity of his young neighbor. She was far wiser than most her age and he admired her parents for their obvious success in helping Maria develop skills that would serve her for life.

"Maria. I need you to come help me." Kelly called from their back door.

Maria stood and said: "I have to go."

Carl stood, reached into his pocket and retrieved a five dollar bill he'd placed in his pocket at lunch. Maria had worked hard and he was determined she learned that labor was a commodity that had a price. She'd earned far more, but at her age, the five dollars was a tremendous sum.

"You earned this." he said as he handed her the money.

Her eyes opened wide as she took the money. "Thank you" was all she said and ran home, where she slipped into the door her mother was holding for her. Kelly waved, went in and shut the door behind her.

Carl went and put up both rakes. He knew Maria would eventually remember the rake and come to retrieve the tool. As he placed them against the wall, he heard a car pull up next door. Walking from the shed, he saw the same car that arrived that morning. Knowing they returned for the dog made Carl start to worry about Maria. He knew she would soon be saddened and disappointed.

Carl walked back to his back porch and sat at the small bench. Watching next door, he eavesdropped on the conversation as the prospective buyer spoke with Kelly: "We really like her, but the $300 is a little steep."

Carl's blood boiled. He knew enough about the breed to know the price was more than reasonable. He, also, knew the smaller puppies demanded a higher price. Unable to restrain his thoughts, he rose and walked next door.

Catching the eye of the abrasive woman, Carl spoke: "She's worth more than what they're asking."

Kelly; lost on what to say, just stared at Carl and waited to see what would happen.

"I'd give that much in a heartbeat and never look back."

Maria stared with wide eyes. She could see that Carl was upset, but wasn't quite sure why. She moved close to Kelly and put her head on her leg.

The woman started to say more, but simply said: "Fine" and started walking away. When she reached the gate, he could hear her say to her son: "You're not driving. I've had enough for one day."

Carl stared for a moment and turned to speak with Kelly: "It looks like I bought a dog."

Kelly restrained herself for a moment before she stared laughing.

“After she said the $300 was too much, I decided she didn’t have enough money for the dog.”

Thought’s passed through Carl’s mind as he studied Kelly’s face to see if she was only being polite. He knew he ruined the sale, but he also knew he didn’t have to buy the dog. Someone would come along, but that didn’t change the moment of excitement he felt when he thought of having another dog.

“No, I’m serious. I don’t have the cash on hand, but I’ll write you a check or have the cash on Monday.”

Carl felt a small tug on his shirt. Looking down he saw Maria, who silently looked at him for a moment before speaking: “I’ll help you, if you want.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Now excited, Marie became a bundle of energy as she started taking charge and explaining what Carl needed to do: “She’s weaned, but she must eat the same food she now eats. You can change it, but only a little at a time. If you don’t she’ll get sick.

Carl smiled, and let Maria lead him into the kennel to retrieve his purchase.

It was dark in the kennel, so it took a few moments for his eyes to adjust. The mother of the puppies growled for a moment as they approached her kennel. She quieted when Maria shushed her and petted the small black and white Chihuahua. Reaching into the small group of puppies, she found the fawn runt and picked her up for Carl to see.

“Isn’t she beautiful?”

Carl was amazed at the size of the puppy. At less than a pound, she was the size of a hamster. Her tiny, blue eyes were open and she licked Marias face when she hugged the tiny dog. Carl could tell she was Maria’s favorite.

“Do you have a box for her to sleep in?”

Carl thought for a moment and responded: “I think I do. You carry the puppy and I’ll find the box.”

When they left the kennel, Carl found Kelly outside with a strange smile on her face.

“Are you sure?”

“I am. I’ve spent too many years without a dog. Remind me to tell you about Snitch.”

Kelly only smiled as Carl and Maria went next door to find the box and settle the puppy into her new home. She thought of Carl’s remark about Snitch. She’d have to ask although she had the feeling the story would be sad.

“Remember Mr. Carl, she always needs fresh water. She’ll step in it, or turn her bowl over, so you have to really watch.”

Maria spent the better part of an hour fussing with the puppy and making sure she had a warm towel to sleep on. Finally, with little more to say, she made one last warning before she left for home: “Praise her when you take her out of the box and she uses her paper. That’s how they learn.”

“Thanks Maria.’

“I’ll come over tomorrow to help some more.”

“Bye, and tell your mom thanks.”

Carl stepped out the door to watch Maria as she made her way home in the darkening evening. Maria looked back and waved as she went into the house. Carl stared for a moment before returning to start his supper.

As he prepared his supper, he’d constantly check the box. The puppy ate while Maria was there, so she was now curled up and sleeping on the hand towel that was her bed. Carl examined the fawn markings and understood the term. The markings and color were similar to a deer.

Finishing his supper, Carl cleaned the kitchen, took a shower and decided to watch some television before going to bed. When he sat, the he heard the puppy moving about in her makeshift kennel. A tiny whimper caught his ear. Going to the box, he found her pacing around the edges. Picking her up, he placed he on the newspaper by the door. After she finished her business, Carl remembered to praise her and petted the tiny dog before placing her back in her box. He returned to his chair, only to hear her again in a few minutes. Returning, he found she’d spilled her water, so he replaced the paper in the box, filled her bowl and spoke his thoughts:” This isn’t going to work. I’ll have to buy one of the bowls you can’t spill.”

Hungry again, she was nibbling on the food in her bowl. Carl returned to his chair and continued watching television. After a few minutes, he nodded off and fell into a deep sleep.

Carl awoke to the sound of rain on the window. As he sat and listened, he was reminded of his new responsibility, when he heard the whimper of the tiny puppy. Going to the box, he found her pacing. He placed her on the paper, but she only wanted to stay around Carl’s feet. After a few minutes, he placed her back in the box. Within seconds, the tiny whimper turned into a small constant yap of loneliness. Carl, not sure on what to do, took the puppy from her box and returned to his chair.

“You sure are a yappy little thing”

Thinking for a moment, Carl held the puppy up and told her: “I think that’s your name: “Yappy” Maria will like that.

Placing the puppy on his chest, she immediately found her way next to his neck and curled up. She was asleep within seconds. Carl, deciding to watch more television until he placed her back in her box, soon succumbed to his day of labor and fell asleep.

The windows were a dull gray when Carl awoke. Realizing he’d slept all night in his chair, he started to rise, when he felt the tiny puppy move in response to his movement.  Placing the dog in his hand, he spent a moment petting her, while he examined her tiny features. Holding her close to his face, she yawned and her puppy breath brought memories of Snitch when he was a puppy.

They were constant companions. They roamed the neighborhood, explored their world and were never apart. Snitch would whine when he left for school and always waited for him to return. The day Snitch died, he was playing catch in the front yard with a friend. A bad throw, and a determined Snitch, led to the exact wrong moment when Snitch was trying to retrieve the ball as a speeding car came down the street. Snitch never felt a thing, although it tore Carl’s heart. It took a long time before he lost the anticipation of finding Snitch waiting when he arrived home.

Wiping his tears, Carl looked at the small puppy and said: “I bet you’re hungry. Let’s go find something to eat.”

Rising to start his day, Carl never thought of his ex wife, as he had for years.  It was a change, although small, which sometimes led to large differences in life.

“We need to hurry. Maria will be here before too long. I don’t want her to think I’m not taking care of you.”