I am bathed now as I once was, Sponged off and towel dried, But where are the powder and soft skin, I think both were gone long ago, I eat now as I once ate, Soft spooned foods then towel wiped, But where are the foods that I like, Gone with the teeth I once had, I listen to stories as I once did, Short stories that make me glad, But where are the fairy tales of greed and lust, Swallowed up in the reality of everyday life, Where are the friends I once knew, Who traveled down these roads of life, Have they changed, too, as time went by, Or have they escaped the ravages of time, As I sit and remember the days gone by, I find I have returned to my nest, Where things are the same as they once were, Swallowed up in the reality of life.
The two German shepherds were usually on self-imposed duty protecting the children. They lay by the door watching cars and people go by on the street. Sometimes their ears would turn and focus on certain sounds. If the sounds were benign or considered normal the ears would relax. If the noises hinted of trouble the ears would swivel and face the location. Then their low throaty growls would gradually get louder until the problem was resolved or I told them it was okay and they could relax. I thought they were rough and tough and ready for any situation that arose.
There were exceptions to their tolerance to noise. Although they had been trained to ignore gunshots while in protection mode they were never quite ready for fireworks and firecrackers. The sudden splashes of light and sound, as well as their confusion when pops and bangs came from varying locations, startled them into jumping and running for cover. They never learned to adjust to any fireworks whether the explosions were large or small. When the first firecracker exploded on special occasions both dogs became nervous shaking puppies.
Thunderstorms were another source of noise that could not be avoided. When one of those dazzling displays of lightning occurred with accompanying thunder, Rex and Cleo would crowd closer to me, content to have my hand pat them occasionally. When the thunder became too loud and took them out of their comfort zone, they would dash for the bed and squeeze underneath.
One night in the midst of a very loud and powerful storm the power went out. It was already after ten so my wife and I hurriedly put the children to bed and retired for the night. We lay in bed talking about the events of the day, the children, and things we needed to do tomorrow.
Lightning struck a tree outside splitting it in half, and the resulting boom shook the house. At the same time our bed rose several inches. My wife screamed and the children came running and piled on top.
She tried to slide off the bed to get everyone resettled. As she turned to get up, a head met hers, made one big slurp and dived underneath the bed again. She screamed even louder this time.
Thinking we were under attack by the elements I grabbed the children and headed for the basement. Rex and Cleo chose this moment to escape the close quarters. They jumped on the bed and knocked my wife to the floor. She screamed again and then fainted.
I called Rex and Cleo and they slunk down the steps and hid. I went to find my wife, concerned that she was badly injured. She wasn’t in bed nor did I find her in the bedroom. I didn’t know she was on the other side of the bed, on the floor, next to the wall.
I went from room to room, tripping over all the things left behind when the lights went out. Ignoring the pain I continued to search. The lights came back on. The children returned and I ordered them back to bed. The dogs returned and I ordered them back to their beds although they returned several times to see if I really meant for them to get out.
Everything was returning to normal but I had to find my wife. Had she ventured out into the storm? Was she injured or worse? My mind was exploding with possibilities. Despite my commands Rex and Cleo bounded past me and squeezed between the bed and the wall. Unfortunately it was at that precise time that my wife awoke. She screamed again. The children came running, the dogs started giving her doggie kisses, and I thought she was injured for sure.
After the dogs and children were resituated I pulled my wife to her feet. She looked at me crossly. “Don’t you dare say anything,” she snapped.
I turned around and walked out onto the front porch. I studied the clear sky and took a deep breath of fresh air. I tried not to smile but I couldn’t help it.
In a few moments my wife joined me. “Aren’t you coming back to bed?”
“I’ll be there in a few moments. The air is so clean and crisp after a storm and I want to enjoy it.”
She put her arm around me. “”I want to hear your version of tonight’s events before I go to sleep. I’ll bet it’s funny.”
“Honey, It wasn’t funny until I knew you were okay. Then I grinned, that’s all. It was a rough scary night. One I’ll remember.”
She hugged me and went inside. I knew things were going to be all right.
Derek stepped quickly
from the elevator in an attempt to elude Vanna but she took his elbow as if he
was a gentleman escorting a lady. Vanna
smiled smugly at everyone as they passed. She knew all eyes were on them and
she wanted the whole office to know she was there. Whispers and gossip filled the void as Derek
He led her to his
office, closed the door behind her, and offered her a chair. “Do I know you
from somewhere?” he asked. “You look
“Don’t you think you
would remember if we had met? We’ll have
time to discuss that later. Right now
the clock is running and the thirty minutes I gave you is now down to twenty.” Her gaze was unwavering and Derek felt chills
running up his spine.
He had to act
fast. He didn’t even consider arguing
with her. She sat there smugly as if she
held the perfect cards and deep inside he knew she wasn’t bluffing. But the terrifying
part was the understanding that she was backed by someone or something
powerful, someone who could crush him in an instant. He needed more information. He would ask about that later, if he dared.
There weren’t many big offices that fit her
specifications. The owner of the company
had the biggest office. Derek, the CEO,
had the most impressive one. Five large
offices belonged to other important executives, and one smaller office which
the owner’s son frequented. Derek had
always considered the owner’s son to be an unnecessary appendage, someone who
got in the way and impeded progress.
Taking that office would mean war with the owner, but what else could
Derek led Vanna to that small office, hoping to appease her. “I’ll
have his things moved right away so you can move in.”
She took a quick glance
around the room. “No, this room doesn’t
satisfy my needs. I’ll tell you when I
see the one I want.”
flustered. Vanna was being uncooperative. He would have liked to send her away. He didn’t
want to be forced to do things but he had no choice. Something was making him
do whatever she asked.
Derek and Vanna went from
office to office, interrupting private conversations and meetings. He knew this was not how to run a business
but at this moment everything was out of his control.
Beads of perspiration were on his forehead and
Derek dabbed at them with a monogrammed handkerchief. All the rushing about and she had not claimed
an office. He seemed puzzled at her silence and her reluctance to choose.
“Okay, now what? You’ve seen them all.”
“There’s one more you
haven’t shown me.” Vanna had that intense look again.
“But that office is
mine,” Derek sputtered. “You can’t have
Vanna smiled sweetly
and said, “I only wanted to see it for comparison purposes. Now that you told me I can’t have it, I’ve
changed my mind. It’s a woman’s
Reluctantly he led her
down the hall, past the receptionist’s desk and through the doors with the large
gold initials, D. G. He walked around a
large desk and sat down ceremoniously.
Seeing him seated in a position of power might calm her down. He leaned
back in his chair and braced himself. “Who
are you and what do you really want?” he snapped.
“Don’t you recognize me,
Derek? We spent hours together. You
tortured me endlessly and gave me no mercy. Didn’t you think I would find you? Or did you even care? You thought I was
disposable. Easy to get rid of. I’m not going to be a victim any longer. It’s your turn now.”
Derek had a wild look
in his eyes. The veins on his forehead bulged. His hands were opening and closing as he
stared at her throat. Perhaps he could
have made one quick move and his tormentor, Vanna, would be lying in a heap.
Instead, his face violently contorted and his hands clutched his chest.
Derek pitched face
forward and fell at Vanna’s feet. “Help me,” he pleaded. “I’m having a heart attack.”
Vanna went around his
desk and sat in his chair. She looked
out at the city below. “I would have
enjoyed this view every day. It’s a pity it was wasted on you.”
She sat there a few
seconds before she got up. She hesitated next to Derek, just in time to hear
him gasp, “Please help me.” Vanna
stooped down and whispered, “Revenge is sweet.
You were just the first. There
are three of your friends I still have to see.”
As she entered the
elevator someone yelled, “Call 911! Mr.
Goodman had a heart attack!” By the time
she got to the ground floor the building was alive with people running in all
directions. She tried to look concerned
as she waited for the next bus.
At precisely at 12:05,
the next bus pulled in. “I’m sorry,
folks,” the driver said slowly, “I had to wait for all the emergency vehicles
to clear the area. I guess somebody
He seemed impatient to
make up lost time. Then he noticed Vanna, waiting on the steps, blocking the
line of people. “What do you want, Miss?”