Here’s looking at you–if the provincial government get its act together

Bloodshot eyes

In the last post about eye care in Ontario, called The Eyes Have It, I informed you about a strike between optometrists and the Ford government in Ontario. Unfortunately, not much has changed. The media doesn’t seem terribly interested in the fact a strike is going on, that very young Ontarians aren’t getting eye examinations they may need badly, that students who have obvious problems seeing the blackboard can’t get an exam, and seniors cannot access a service they really need (How old is you driver Doug?). In short any OHIP-covered patients including kids, teens, seniors, people receiving ODSP or OW support, and people with eye diseases or diabetes cannot get an eye exam.

In 2011 the previous arrangement between the provincial government and the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) came to an end. Between then and now, the current provincial government did nothing to avert a strike. This is not an issue Doug Ford cannot blame on another political party. When he became premier of Ontario it became his problem, and he did what he does best – he ignored the problem till there was no alternative but for the OAO to start a job action. In other words because of Fords inaction they were forced to go on on strike.

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Here’s a video where the minister of Health Christine Elliott can be seen dancing around a very straight forward question regarding eye care in Ontario.   https://youtu.be/CiBXDB6eD20?t=2415 .

It’s an uncomfortably long video, but if you fast forward to the 40:15 point you’ll discover how confusing her response is. If you have insomnia this should cure it. A much shorter video (4:36 seconds) can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9cbzsuMt84.

Let’s cut through the baloney, misinformation, and screwed up “facts” from Health Minister and Deputy Premier Christine Elliott

Christine Elliott, 66, senior

  • Number of days the Ministry of Health stayed in mediation with OAO before THEY walked away from the table in August: 2

  • Number of counter-offers the Ministry of Health gave the OAO after they’re FIRST and only proposed offer was made during those 2 days of mediated negotiations: 0

  • If the Health Minister and Deputy Premier need new glasses to read SHE WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO GET AN EYE EXAM. She’s a senior. The longer she drags this issue out the more her eyesight will deteriorate.

  • The number of phone calls and/or emails the OAO has received from the Ministry of Health to return to the table since seniors and children have lost access to eyecare two months ago: 0 – Zero.

  • The OAO is still waiting for Minister Elliott’s team to return to the bargaining table, while they remain focused on making publicity stunts and publicizing “alternate facts” in the media.

  • It is not fair nor reasonable to expect optometrists to pay out of pocket to provide OHIP-insured services.

  • Ontario optometrists provide over 4 million OHIP-insured eye care services ANNUALLY. In the last decade, Ontario optometrists provided over 34 million OHIP-insured eye care services. $39 million divided among 34 million services is a paltry $1.15 per service. An indication of what the government thinks of this job action.

  • Doug Ford has said countless times (and if you include audio-visual clips from the media played thousands of times) that he is for “the little guy”. The “little guy” needs they’re eyes examined. Be a leader and settle this job action. Your actions will determine how many people vote, and an election is just a few months away.

  • Optometrists did not ask for a retroactive payment at all but instead asked for any payment be put toward investing in a sustainable eye care system for the future.

  • The government imposed the payment but did not consult with optometrists as to how to distribute the payment. The government sent money to optometrists who have moved, retired and died. (You can tell this is a government operation).

  • The one-time payment does nothing to solve the eye care crisis and is a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

  • Physician compensation and optometrist compensation is not an “apples-to-apples” comparison for various reasons. One such reason: Ontario physicians are the second-highest paid physicians in all of Canada; meanwhile, Ontario optometrists receive the lowest compensation rates across the country.

  • The Ministry of Health was asked to participate in a cost analysis study of overhead expenses for providing eye exams in December 2020; however, the Ministry of Health declined to participate. (The Ministry wants to be able to say “you paid for the study, so naturally it will say what you want it to say”).

  • As baby boomers enter into their senior years of life, they have an increased risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. A surge in seniors with more complex eye care needs is inundating optometry offices.

images (1)Just remember, if your child thinks your glasses are a toy and you need new ones, forget that idea. You’ll need an exam. Especially if you’ve been in an accident.

89babd06bb64d8fdcfa303fdf70319ad41c87c03-image5Students who can’t read their laptop have only the provincial government to thank for their lousy grades. In-class or virtual, if you can’t see what’s in front of you means you’re screwed. And you can thank the ministry of heath for that.

In summary…

Christine Elliott, our minister of health, will probably continue to muddy the waters, fabricate so called “truths”, manufacture “facts”, and mangle reality beyond all recognition. My eye doctor hoped this job action would have been over in early fall. No such luck. Christine Elliott, and the ministry of health, have been uncommunicative as usual. Doug Ford will probably swoop in just weeks before the election, and straighten out the Elliott-induced catastrophe. Jus remember Doug…voters are watching. And angry voters don’t vote the way you want them to.

lookin' at you

Watching and waiting Doug. And waiting…and waiting…and waiting.      

The Eyes Have It

lookin' at you

Eyes. You have them. I have them. And I want to keep mine in tip-top shape. But the provincial government, the one led by Doug Ford, the one so concerned with vaccines and shots, doesn’t seem to care about your sight.

On September 1 the optometrists in this province went on strike. Doug Ford and the current minister of health the Honorable Christine Elliott don’t want you to know it has a problem they may not be able to handle.

On Sept. 1, 2021 this happened.

Optometrists stopped giving eye exams to:

  • Children, toddlers, and children in school needing glasses
  • Adults with pre-existing conditions (near sighted, far sighted, etc.)
  • All seniors

Why Is This Happening? 

  • For more than 30 years the government has not formally negotiated with Ontario optometrists
  • There continues to be a growing gap between inflation and investment in eye care.
  • In 1989, the Ontario government paid $39.15 for an OHIP-insured eye exam. Today, they pay only $44.65 per exam leaving the optometrist to pay the remainder out of their own pockets.
  • That fee does not come anywhere close to covering office expenses such as staff, rent, utilities, equipment, and supplies required to provide an eye exam.

What’s the solution?

There is only one solution. We need the government to commit to a binding, formal negotiation process – the same way they do with other health care sectors like the Ontario Medical Association – to ensure quality eye care for everyone in Ontario, today and in the future. Optometrists are doctors. Remember when the Ford government wanted us to thank front line workers?They are trying to ignore optometrists, and not pay them a living wage.

I’m not a senior yet (that happens next month), but I can’t get an exam because I have a pre-existing eye condition. My wife is in the same situation. We don’t like being caught in the middle of this strike/job action. The last time I had an eye exam was in December of 2018. I picked up my “new” glasses in January of 2019. I’m already having trouble reading. Sometimes, I’m not sure if I read an “L” or a “B”. In 2022 there will be a provincial election, and Doug Ford as well as Christine Elliott will want to get re-elected. With a aging population, and a great many eye exams being postponed because of a narrow minded tight fisted government, it will be interesting to see, (pun not intended), if anybody will be able to read the ballot.

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Conflict Thesaurus is Here!!

The Conflict Thesaurus Cover LARGE EBOOK-1

It’s always fun when there’s good news to share, and today is one of those days. You may know Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus and its E-book companion  Emotion Amplifiers. Well, I’m a big believer in the helpfulness of their books and so I joined their Street Team for The Conflict Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Obstacles, Adversaries, and Inner Struggles (Vol. 1). It’s just released, and I am so excited to share a bit about it, and a super fun event, with all of you!

The Conflict Thesaurus tackles all the ways conflict can be used to build tension, push the story forward, raise stakes, and pressure characters to do whatever it takes to win. The guide dives into over 100 conflict scenarios and how each can be adapted to challenge a character inside and out. Problems, Moral Dilemmas, Ticking Clocks, Obstacles, Challenges…say goodbye to writer’s block, weak plots, and unmotivated characters. If you need help in any of these areas, check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Can You Survive Danger as Well as Your Favorite Protagonist?

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Let’s face it, as writers we’re always doing bad things to the protagonist. We put their loved ones in danger, force them to make impossible choices, and worse. But wouldn’t you like to know how you’d fare as the protagonist of a story?

Let me put it another way: if you were in the hot seat, could you handle the pressure? Would you make good decisions, or bad ones?

It’s time to find out by taking the Conflict Challenge!

Become the protagonist in a special story Angela & Becca have created using scenarios from The Conflict Thesaurus. And heads up, if you survive, you can win some cool stuff!

GIVEAWAY ALERT

While you’re trying not to die in the Conflict Challenge, make sure to enter Angela & Becca’s Conflict Thesaurus release day giveaway, too. But hurry – it ends October 15th.

So, take the challenge…if you dare. And don’t forget to come back and let me know how you did against Camp Deadwood!

If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything!

Those words really entered the American lexicon when they were spoken by Chris Kraft, the first space flight controller in the manned space program called Project Mercury. An underling didn’t know what to do during the simulation of an early space flight, was intimidated/terrified of Kraft, did something hoping he was right, wasn’t, caused a gigantic error, and incurred the wrath of Kraft.

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(Kraft in Mercury Control in 1961 giving hell to someone)

And right now I don’t know what to do with “Blue Cottage”. I have five drafts, but it’s very hard to tell what’s missing.

I know…

Chapter 1 needs a lot of work. Description of most things is pretty pathetic. There is little to no description of the apartment or the hall. There is no physical description of either of the characters in chapter 1 and almost none on the police officer. I read what I had written then started wondering how to fix it.

I suspect that most of the pieces to this literary puzzle already exist in one of the five drafts. But it’s bloody frustrating knowing what has to be done, and not knowing how to do it. I’ve purchased books by Janice Hardy, Marcy Kennedy, Rayne Hall, and Natalie Goldberg to see if they could answer some questions. I’ve downloaded or printed out posts by Lorraine Ambers, Laurence MacNaughton and others and created a binder one inch thick of posts giving literary aid. I want to make it perfectly clear I am not blaming any of the above named authors for any of the short comings in my story “Blue Cottage”. But for all the reading I’ve done I’ve come to one conclusion: if you find ten author/coaches and ask them one simple question you’ll get ten very different answers.

Over thirty years ago I went through a medical event that almost killed me, and supremely messed up (and that’s being obscenely polite) my memory. Try to imagine there’s a brick wall in front of you. And each row of bricks represents a year of memories.  Now imagine there are over twenty rows of bricks in front of you. You’re now dealing with a lot of information. Now imagine a truck comes barrelling down the street, and smashes into that wall of bricks at high speed. Some of the bricks are totally destroyed – turned to dust, some are badly fragmented but can be used again, while others are so badly fractured only a fraction of them can ever be used again. Almost ten years of memories were totally destroyed –  completely erased , others were badly fragmented, and the remainder were just barely accessible. Everything I learned in elementary school with regard to the construction of a sentence was destroyed. I have no idea what a subject is, and for all I know a predicate could be related to a parakeet. A noun is nothing but a word to me, and the only thing I know about adverbs is that they should be avoided at all costs. I think adjectives are descriptive words but the frustrating aspect is I can look this information up in a dictionary, but I won’t remember what the blasted answer is.

A lot of information was destroyed to the point where I can just barely make use of it. If I were to meet Janice Hardy at a dinner party there is a good chance I would forget meeting her five minutes later. However, if I met Janice Hardy of Fiction University.Com there is a chance, a slim one, that I might remember her. Laurence MacNaughton might be remembered if he talked to me of his love for cars. I had to re-learn a great many things, and I have to constantly re-learn things I’ve already re-learned. Re-learning something by associating it with something sometimes helps, but not always.

I would dearly love to find is a comprehensive glossary of writing terms. A book that told me in very basic terms what a plot is, what POV is, what description is, etcetera. Just in case someone reads this and puts together a glossary like the one I just described do not use the word being defined in the answer. Apparently this sort of thing is a no-no.

I started writing Blue Cottage two years ago. Draft one appeared on this very blog. But if you were to compare draft one with draft 5 you would see very little resemblance.

Many writing coaches (legitimate and not so) suggest writing quickly. I can’t do that. My brain simply can’t handle the stress. I tried it once and ended up with a doozy of a headache. When I write my brain functions very quickly while my fingers are dead slow. Plus I have to watch my fingers actually press the key. The brain functions so quickly the fingers might not get the message to press a specific key.

I’ve finally decided who the audience for Blue Cottage is. Me. I’m writing it because I enjoy it. When I wrote draft one I felt somewhat “under the gun”, pressured, to produce 1500 words each week. But I kept going. The word count was the last thing I was paying attention to. Eventually I had 86,655 words by the end of draft one. Rayne Hall advocates that anybody finishing a first draft should scour it for words that simply aren’t needed. Her words of wisdom may be correct, but I found draft 2 getting fatter instead of slimmer. Draft 3 and 4 almost suffered from obesity. I stopped re-writing/re-vising shortly after I began draft 5. After reading all five drafts I decided to take a break from “Blue Cottage” and return to another story I abandoned a few years ago. “Second Chances”  is a story I started in 2006. It’s a Star Trek story. I saw the film “Generations” where the character of Captain Kirk is killed off. And I remember coming away from the film feeling somewhat cheated. I thought and felt the character could still be explored. Only this time James Tiberius Kirk would be retired, and the U.S.S. Enterprise would be gutted and mothballed. I didn’t want to deal with a large cast of characters so I thought about what I wanted to write. It started James T. Kirk, Tonia Barrows and Dr. Leonard McCoy and grew from there.

So I’ll distance myself from “Blue Cottage”, give it a rest, and work on “Second Chances”. Maybe I’ll return to “Blue Cottage” in the spring. Maybe later. But I’m not going to totally abandon it. I’ve too much time invested in it. Besides, I get a kick out of working on it.

Blue Cottage Draft 2 Report 2

THA_Shadow Lake-Blue Cottage

Ok, here’s what I’m going to do. I’ll post the very first chapter and hope for constructive comments. What you can do is really easy. You can say something constructive (meaning useful) comments bit if you’d rather not  see any more you don’t have to say a single solitary word.

WARNING:  This Chapter is 5,295 words long or 14 pages long.

Chapter 1 Blue Cottage

By

T. H. Austin

Cassandra Carter, also known to her friends as Cassie, was a radio reporter for station CKMT. She’s been working there for five years. Her boss was Robert Stone who had the nickname of Buddha. Once you saw him you’d know why he had that particular nickname. Cassie’s current employment status might be best be described as questionable. She was hired, then suspended then told to get out of town but it might be better if you knew the entire story.

When she got out of bed she knew it was going to be a very special day. It was five years to the day that she had been hired as a reporter by the station.

And for five years she had done everything asked of her and fulfilled every assignment without complaint or comment. She was determined that today would be different from every day that preceded it. After she drove into the parking garage she had to check in with security in the lobby. The building used to be an old hotel and little had been done to change its overall appearance. When she reached the lobby it was a short walk before she reached the security office. Ben, the daytime security guard, asked for her station ID card, just like he had for the last five years. Today was just one day too many.

“Oh come on! You know who exactly who I am” she said feigning mild exasperation. “Do we have to go through this charade every single day?” said Cassie.

Ben liked giving Cassie a hard time every now and then. When she didn’t have her ID ready for inspection he asked her to step aside while she searched through her purse. Ben looked right at her while he attempted to answer her question.

“I’m just obeying the rules, Cassie. I’ve got to check every ID. Besides, you know the deal. This whole process would go by much faster if you’ll go out on a date with me.”

Cassie rolled her eyes. Ben had been asking her out for five years and she had been saying no for just as long.

“Would you let me pass if I said I’ll think about it?”

Ben shook his head then took pity on her.

“Oh alright. Just this once.” He held up one finger.

“Besides, you’re holding up the parade. There are people behind you. Now scat or I’ll phone Buddha and say you’re making a scene.”

That’s when the clock in the lobby sounded nine and Cassie became furious.

“You rat! You made me late on purpose.”

Before she got on the elevator she pushed her station ID against the tip of Ben’s nose. Still angry, she tossed her ID inside her purse and closed it. She quickly stepped inside the elevator. As the doors closed she shook her fist at him. She was still angry when she got to the CKMT studios on the third floor. Cassie was one of the first to arrive that day and empty desks covered with flowers or photos littered the third floor. Hers was beside her boss’s office. The lack of cursing told her that Buddha had yet to arrive. Then she spotted an assignment slip taped the top of her desk. She reached for it and read it.

“Be at the zoo by two-thirty. Big announcement”. It was signed with a “B”.

Cassie thought about the assignment slip.

Not bloody likely. I’m a real reporter. I’m not a cub reporter fresh out of journalism school. It’s not my job to do puff pieces about Tibetan tigers and panda bears. That’s for first-year reporters. I cover hard news.”

She had good reason to be upset at the slip. She had been doing animal stories for five years and was sick of it. So after a few strong curses, Cassie turned around and walked towards the elevator. When she got to the ground floor she approached the security checkpoint and simply said: “Tell Buddha I’ll be at city hall”.

***

Her first stop was at city hall security. She had to inform them she was there, who she was, what media outlet she represented and would be taking part in the mayor’s daily media scrum. Television reporters were always in the first row of reporters. They were always closest to the mayor. Behind the TV reporters stood radio reporters. And behind them were newspaper reporters. She didn’t know who decided this on particular pecking order but it seemed to work. TV reporters had a friendly dislike for radio reporters and radio reporters had a mutual dislike for their TV counterparts. But reporters were always ready to help each other out when they needed a quote. Reporters also stood together if one of them was slighted in any way. By the time she reached the office of city hall security, she was trembling. She held her press credentials for inspection. Then she stood in a line of other reporters that seemed to move forward with the speed of a lame snail. Normally media outlets sent one reporter to cover city hall, and at CKMT the city hall beat belonged to Toby Squires. It would look very strange if two reporters showed up unless there was a very good reason. She handed her credentials to a very bored looking guard sitting at the desk in front of her.

“Cassandra Carter representing CKMT”. The guard looked at her with an unusual intensity.

“Toby is already here. Why are you here Miss Carter?”.

This was one question was one she should have been prepared for. She gave the guard the first excuse she could think of.

“Toby is nearing retirement. My boss asked me to shadow him for a couple of weeks to see if I liked the assignment”.

The guard stood and glowered at her.

“Now that’s strange. Toby hasn’t said a word about retirement”.

Cassie now had to lie like her life depended on it. And, in a way, it did.

“Mr. Stone and I talked about this assignment yesterday. He said he wanted someone new to give the reporting a more youthful sound. I can’t say for sure but I think this is more of a lateral career move if you know what I mean”.

The guard was quiet for a short time and sat back down. He exhaled out and his cheeks ballooned out while the press credentials were scanned for metallic objects. A female guard waved a handheld scanner over Cassie’s body.

“You mean the guy is getting fired?” the guard asked quietly.

Cassie was now in it up to her neck. She now had a friend’s career in the palm of one hand and her own in the other. She leaned forward and started speaking quietly as well.

“I can’t say for sure but it sure looks that way. Please don’t say I said anything” she pleaded.

The guard looked winded and pale as if an old friend had just died.

“Wow, I had no idea. I’m sure gonna miss him” said the guard.

The guard dragged his fingers through his hair and looked like he had just been dealt a body blow. On the off chance, she did get the city hall beat he wanted to pay her a compliment.

“Don’t take this the wrong way but you’ll sure brighten this place up. Time has not been kind to some of the regulars. Some of them have been covering City Hall since you were a kid. Just sign where I’ve marked and you’re good to go”.

After signing in and getting accredited she hid out in the ladies’ room and waited till it was just a few minutes before the scrum. The ladies’ room was directly opposite the mayor’s office. It also provided a place where she could keep an on things, plus keep a lookout for Toby. She didn’t want to run into him before the scrum began. When other reporters started assembling outside the mayor’s office she discreetly exited the ladies’ room. She hugged the wall and only moved closer when the actual scrum began. The mayor didn’t care for reporters. She couldn’t control the media and reporters were always an unknown quantity. When she finished re-announcing what she had already announced during the re-election campaign the free for all began. Reporters jumped and yelled trying almost anything to get the attention of the mayor. The rules were quite clear. Reporters could do almost anything until the mayor pointed at one of them. Then dead silence had to take the place of the toddler like pandemonium. The mayor pointed to one of Cassie’s cohorts from the zoo beat. It was obvious the mayor didn’t recognize her.

“The woman wearing the red pantsuit in the second row,” she said pointing at the woman. Silence fell and the reporter asked her question.

“Madam Mayor, why are you re-announcing plans you have already announced during your re-election campaign?”

The mayor was caught red-handed performing an old political trick. She avoided the question and pretended she didn’t hear it. Then she pointed at Cassie who was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

“The woman near the wall in the dark green pantsuit” barked the mayor.

“Casandra Carter of CKMT. A male employee of the city has accused you of sexual harassment. Would you care to make any comment?”

When Toby Squires heard the call letters of the station he immediately pulled out his cell phone. As he talked he made eye contact with Cassie who immediately turned green. He looked furious. Suddenly her smartphone began to vibrate which meant it was a text message.

“GET BACK TO THE STATION NOW!” The message was from Buddha.

The mayor was red-faced with rage. She began sputtering and stuttering at the question. Her rage was so fierce she started to shake and to steady herself she had to hold on to the lectern in front of her. She turned her back on the scrum and spoke quietly with a member of her staff. The same staff member soon started moving towards Cassie. A second staff member soon approached her in a classic pincer movement. Cassie tried backing up but soon bumped into the wall. One of the mayors’ minions grabbed her by the arm. Soon her other arm was grabbed as well.

“Come with us, Miss”. Cassie complained and protested this treatment. The two staff members took her to city hall security. As the three of them entered the security office Cassie glanced at the guard who had signed her in. One of the mayors’ staff spoke up.

“She violated the rules of the scrum. Plus the mayor wants her banned for life” one of the mayors’ aides said.

The security guard now stood and ripped off Cassie’s press credentials. The guard looked at her as a disappointed father would.

“Sorry, Cassie. You lied to me, and Toby’s not being retired. You should have known this would happen. From here on in you will no longer be welcome at city hall. Your photo will be kept on file and you will be refused entry should you ever try to come here again. You’re Persona Non-Grata here. You’ll now be escorted out of the building”. He paused then said, “You brought this on yourself”.

Unknown to Cassie other reporters were demanding the mayor answer the question she had asked. The mayor abruptly ended the scrum and retreated into her office. By law, reporters could not go past the glass wall of the mayors’ office. The office had recently been renovated and the walls of the office were now bulletproof and soundproof so all the staff members could do was see the reporters. Some of the staff even referred to the mayors’ office as “the fishbowl”.

As Cassie walked back to the CKMT offices she tried her best to put a positive spin on what just happened. But the more she tried the more she realized there was nothing remotely positive about this. She slowly realized that she had just committed journalistic suicide. When she reached the CKMT building she saw Ben the security guard waiting for her.

“Buddha called and told me what happened. He also asked me to escort you upstairs”. Cassie couldn’t help but notice he didn’t ask me out.

They went up in the elevator together in total silence. They both knew what was going to happen. When the elevator reached the third floor Ben stayed inside. Cassie took a step forward then turned around and put a hand on his chest. “For what it’s worth I almost said yes today”. Then she heard some footsteps behind her. Buddha was waiting.

“Carter! Get your scrawny ass into my office”.

Cassie walked into Buddha’s office. Robert Stone, also known as Buddha, was the boss at CKMT. He used to be an editor at a large metropolitan newspaper until it was sold. The new owners wanted him as editor but he didn’t want anything to do with the new owners. His physical makeup was that of a man in his fifties with rapidly thinning hair who could stand to lose more than a few pounds. His physique was that of a person who used to play football. He didn’t have a neck. After Cassie sat down Buddha entered and sat behind his badly dented gunmetal desk. Whenever he was angry or unhappy he kicked the side of his desk. A small sign in the main office showed the number of kicks the desk got on a given day. As she walked towards her date with destiny she saw a sign that had the number “seventeen” written on it. For a short eternity, Buddha just sat in his chair, leaning back and stared at Cassie. His glare was piercing. Finally, he spoke. The shouting started immediately.

“Are you trying to kill me?” he bellowed. “I’ve never had anyone cause me as much trouble as you have today” was a little lower in tone but at least it didn’t rattle the soundproof windows. Cassie knew she had screwed up badly and started looking at the floor. She found it incredibly hard to face the man who hired her right out of school and gave her her first real job in radio journalism.

Buddha started pointing at the phone on his desk.

“See this phone. There’s nothing remotely special about it. It’s an ordinary desk phone. But it’s seen more action in the last hour than all the Playboy Bunnies combined!. So, if I’m sitting on an angle it’s because the battle-ax that owns this station just chewed my ass off!. She wants you fired immediately. She’s had calls from the mayor’s office and other station owners. So, naturally, she bitches at me”.

Buddha sat up and leaned forward in his chair. “So listen up! Me boss. You employee!” He slammed the desk. “You’ve been escorted out of city hall for the very last time. They’ve rescinded your press credentials and are adamant about never reinstating them. And City Hall security has standing orders to detain you should you ever go back, for any reason. You can’t even go back to use the ladies’ room. The provincial government and those boneheaded Feds have heard about your little stunt with the mayor and are in the process of banning you from all government buildings as well as retracting your media credentials”.

Cassie started sniffling and prayed Buddha would stop. But he continued.

“Does the story stop there you ask? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. Your name is in almost every newspaper, television broadcast, and radio broadcast in the western world. You make fights in Taiwan’s parliament look tame”.

He walked over to the front of his desk and sat on the edge. Praise usually came from behind the desk in a seated position. If you’re about to be handed your head he liked to be up close and personal. He crossed his arms and scowled.

“You’re actions today have got me over a barrel. I could fire you, and God knows I should. But dammit, you’re also one of the best radio reporters I’ve seen in a damn long time”.

Buddha had a thin streak of humanity that was rarely seen and it was starting to show. His philosophy was to rule by instilling fear in those that worked under him, and he wanted to keep his “meanest son of a bitch in the valley” reputation intact so he closed the door. He returned to his chair and put his feet on his desk.

“You’ve got drive, empathy, and passion. That’s a combination that rarely comes along. Most of the people in this business have only got two of those qualities. But have three and that makes you a damn special person and only a fool would fire. In the news business, you’re what’s called a triple threat. But you’re not professional enough. You’ve got detach yourself from the story. That’s why I kept giving you zoo assignments”. Then he stood up and started to pace inside his office. His spartan office only had two pictures. One of the Hindenburg explosion and the space shuttle Challenger exploding.

He returned to his chair. He looked very tired and weary.

“The owner of the station wants me to fire you. But I’m not going to do that. You’re just too damn good to cut loose. You’ve got potential coming out the wazoo but unfortunately that’s all it is right now. So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to put you on indefinite suspension until you reign in whatever is that’s pissing you off. You’re still an employee of CKMT. I’ll square that with the owner. I’m not sure how I’ll do it but I’ll do it. But I’m not doing you any favors. “Indefinite suspension” is radio journalism’s little purgatory. It means no pay, no health benefits, no “perks” of any kind that usually go with the profession. Zilch. Worst of all is you can’t write for any other news station or news medium. If you were my daughter my advice to you would be to get outta the city and cast out your demons. Where you go is your business, but when you come back that chip on your shoulder better be gone. If it’s still there your career will be over. Now, I want you to take some time off and ask yourself if this is really what you want to do. Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal. Get out of town and grow up”.

“Took the words right out of my mouth. Now, get a box from storage and clear out your desk before I have to call building security”.

***

Cassie slowly walked towards the storage room and picked out a sturdy white bankers box. Walking back just as slowly she slammed it on top of her desk. It took only a few minutes to clean out her desk then she said goodbye to a few select people. Then she took the elevator down to the parking garage. The elevator seemed to move painfully slowly and Cassie started to tear up by the time she finally reached the garage and her car. She put the box on top of the trunk, her hands against her face, and started to cry. She took one look at the contents of the cardboard box and thought it was a pretty puny collection for five years of her life. She didn’t expect to come back so she snapped the plastic lanyard around her neck and tossed her ID badge into the box. After putting the small box on the passenger seat she got in the car, revved the engine and sped out of the parking garage, past Ben, and away from CKMT.

As she drove home her eyes began to get moist. It wasn’t long before she started tearing up again. She realized she needed to talk to someone. Crying and driving don’t usually mix well and the tears were quickly obscuring her vision. She began stabbing the dashboard of the car.

“Where’s that damn button?”.

She tried reaching it with wet, salty tears obscuring her vision. And all she succeeded in doing was in breaking a nail. Normally she’d be ticked off but this time she just didn’t care.

“Ow!”.

Cassie looked at her nails and shivered. The nail covering the index finger was jagged and ugly when compared to the other nails. She drove the car to the side of the road and parked. Searching through her purse she found the little packet of Kleenex and wiped her eyes with it. When Cassie bought the mascara it was sold to her as waterproof. Well, it wasn’t. When she looked into the mirror a raccoon looked back.

“Oh hell!. I better call Carol. I need someone to talk to”.

Carol Jenkins was one of her few remaining friends she still had from journalism school. Most of the others worked in different areas of the country. Even though Carol worked at a competing station the two became so close they thought of each other as sisters. Carol was somebody she could confide in. The previous Christmas Cassie gave herself a present and had a phone installed in her Honda Civic. It was one of those voice-activated models. All she had to do was say the name of the car and the name of the person to call.

“Toodles, call Carol”. For some reason, I named my car “Toodles”.

After a few seconds, a phone began to ring.

“Hello, this is Carol Jenkins. I’m away from my desk-”.

“Damn!” Cassie hated voice mail and pressed the “end call” button.

She waited for five minutes and tried again.

The phone connected and started ringing.

“C’mon girlfriend be there. I need to talk to you” said Cassie.

She prayed for a flesh and blood person to answer the phone. After what felt like a small eternity Carol answered.

“Carol Jenkins. How ya doin’ girlfriend?”.

Cassie paused. Suddenly the words “I’ve been canned” burst out of her mouth and a torrent of tears streamed down her face.

“Cassie, did you just say that butt-head fired you?” asked Carol.

Cassie chuckled a bit. Carol had been funny without meaning to. The tears were too much to handle so she leaned back and rested her head against the headrest. Carol never had a head for names let alone nicknames so her mangling Buddha’s name came as no surprise.

“Buddha didn’t fire me exactly but it’s just as bad. I’m on indefinite suspension and you know what that means”.

When Carol and Cassie were in school there was a special lecture on the subject. The lecturer had been put on indefinite suspension and he called it “radio hell”.

At first, Carol said nothing at all. Then she understood the magnitude of what Cassie had said.

“I’m coming over tonight with comfort food. I want all the details. I can’t come over right now, but I’ll be over around seven tonight. I’ll be coming over after work. You going to be all right hon?” said Carol.

When Cassie heard Carol say she was coming from work her head dropped onto her chest and she could feel her neck muscles start to relax.

“I need to talk to my auntie Carol. Thanks” She pressed the “End Call” button and another river of tears started.

***

When she got home she changed from her work clothes into an old ratty sweatsuit from better days. As Cassie sat on the sofa she peered into the box containing what used to be important. She looked at the note pads and the cassettes and started crying again. She bowed her head and bawled her head off. And for a few hours, that’s all she did.

Carol arrived shortly after seven armed with Häagen-Dazs mint-chocolate ice cream, four gigantic bags of Oreo cookies, and two bottles of Lowenbrau beer. First, she tried knocking on the door. No response. Juggling ice cream, Oreo cookies, and beer was no easy feat and she resorted to kicking the bottom of the door.

“Cassie, it’s Carol. Open the door. This stuff is heavy!” she yelled.

Cassie had three locks on the door plus a peephole so Carol had to wait in the hall as she pulled a heavy bolt lock at the bottom of the door which went into a hole in the floor. Then she had to deal with the chain lock being undone which always made a scraping sound, and the smaller bolt lock that always gave out a “thunk” when it was being undone. Before unlocking the door Cassie looked through the peephole to see if Carol was still there.

The sight that greeted Carol when Cassie opened the door could only be described as horrific. Some of her mascara had dripped down her face and coupled with the red raccoon eyes transformed her into something you might see in a horror movie.

“Holy Christmas! I’m gonna clean you up so you look human again. Help me with these bags then follow me into the bathroom” said Carol.

When Carol went into the kitchen and put the bags and beer on the kitchen counter Cassie went back to the sofa. Carol grabbed some Kleenex from the bathroom and proceeded to remove the mascara streaks. When she finished cleaning Cassie up she sat in a comfy chair with crossed arms and looked right at her. Cassie chose to sit on the floor directly in front of the sofa.

“When you called me I didn’t know what to think so I want to know everything. From what you had for breakfast to what you wore to work. I want to know what happened at work, and what didn’t happen. One of my stations’ reporters said you were in city hall?. When did you get the city hall beat? Did butt-head hit you?”. When Carol finished she pointed right at Cassie providing her with an opening to answer Carol’s questions. Cassie sat on the floor in her sweatsuit hugging a red pillow and started sniffling. When she didn’t start talking Carol started talking a little softer.

“I don’t make comfort runs to the grocery store for just anyone. C’mon girlfriend, talk to me. If all you’re going to do is sit there, pout and hug the stuffing out of that pillow I’m going home. I’ve got a mountain of things that need to be done yesterday”.

When Cassie finally began talking Carol noticed that she was surrounded by a sea of romance novels. Some looked like they had been read two or three times and others very recently. When she picked one up she noticed that some lines had been underlined, and when the name of the female protagonist was mentioned that name had been crossed out and Cassie substituted her own. For the better part of an hour, Cassie recounted her day in almost gory detail. But she wasn’t finished. Partway through she stopped, got up from the floor and walked into the kitchen. When she returned she was chowing down on mint-chocolate ice cream. A few minutes later she returned to the kitchen to retrieve the Oreo’s and a bottle of beer. As she got closer to reciting her chat with Buddha she started to rock back and forth. When she got to the part where Buddha said “I’ve never had anyone cause me so much trouble as you have today” she was bawling her head off again. All that did was make her eyes redder.

“Then he told me to get out of town and get my shit together. Normally Buddha is a bloody great lump with all the manners you can find on the head of a pin. But today he was almost human. He talked to me like I was his daughter”.

Carol thought a bit before speaking. Then she leaned forward to ask what was a sensitive question.

“I know this probably a ridiculous question but is it possible, just possible, that he has romantic feelings for you?”.

Cassie opened her mouth and stuck her finger in it.

“God, what a revolting thought. The man’s old enough to be my father. That’s so gross I think I’m going to hurl. Yuck!”.

Carol took her shoes off and leaned back in the chair.

“Sorry. I had to ask so I could eliminate the possibility. But he did say you were a triple threat and lord knows you gave him more than enough reason to fire you. Maybe being suspended isn’t such a bad thing. Technically you still work for the station. Do you have any idea where you’re going to go?”.

Cassie leaned back and her head fell onto on the sofa.

“I’d rather not dig into my savings if I can avoid it. I had an aunt Heather who died last year. For some reason, she left her cottage to me. Maybe I should check it out. I’ve only been there only a few times and that was during the summers and very briefly. She wasn’t exactly a people person. Why she left it to me I’ll never know. It’s near a sleepy little town called Norland. You know the kind. The kind of town where if someone has the flu at one end of town by the time the news reaches the far end of town they’re at death’s door with the plague. I’ll have to contact our family lawyer for the directions. His name is Harold Langtree”.

Carol relaxed for the first time since she arrived.

“You had had me going ya know. You sounded pretty frantic when you called but it sounds like you’ve got things sorted out already. Can I make a suggestion?”.

Carol reached down for one the books at her feet.

“When you go to the cottage take a few of these books with you. You’re going to have a lot of questions. Some of the answers you’re looking for might be in between these covers. Once you get settled give me a call. It sounds like an intriguing place. Can I ask one more question?. And I promise it has nothing to do with your station or mine”. Caroled around and started scratching her head.

“You’ve had this apartment about five years now and it still looks like you just moved in. What gives?”.

Cassie looked tired but she forced herself to answer Carol’s question.

“Apartments aren’t a home. A house is. A house with kids and a husband who never remembers to put the seat down. Between you and me I was hoping I wouldn’t be here this long. Plus I’m not the decorating type of gal. I guess I just don’t have the decorating gene. Now I want to thank you for coming over and bringing the comfort food but shoo. You look as bushed as I feel. And once I get the cottage all straightened up I promise to invite you. Now scat!”.

Cassie held the door open for Carol. As she went through the doorway she handed Cassie one of the romance novels that were on the floor.

“Read it. Only this time really read it. Sometimes books have answers to questions you’ve forgotten to ask”.

Cassie looked at the cover and couldn’t recall reading it. Then she smelled the pages and there was none of the tell-tale dust. As she closed the door she peered through the peephole and watched Carol walk down the hall. Carol was a really good friend who deserved so much more. After Carol was safely in the elevator Cassie started to fasten the bolts on the door and the chain lock.

Blue Cottage Draft 2–Progress Report #1

THA_Shadow Lake-Blue Cottage

I thought doing a second draft of the first draft of “Blue Cottage” would be pretty easy. Fat chance!. First, the first draft is bad in parts. No, let me re-phrase that. It’s pretty bad. No, that’s still not right. The first draft is just god-awful. I can think of other ways of describing it but I’m pretty sure you get the gist. I’m sure somebody out there in there in the cybershere is saying to themselves “The author is always the harshest critic”. And that may be true. But I’m having a heck of good time whipping it into shape.

See that picture at (or near) the top. That’s where I spent the summers of 1964 to the mid-seventies. My parents demolished the existing cottage and built this one. Only it wasn’t called Blue Cottage. It was called many things but never, ever, not even once, that name. That’s one I made up all on my own. Now, the main character in Blue Cottage is Cassandra (Cassie) Carter. Everything else revolves around her or concerns her. She’s a radio reporter who creates a scandal, is suspended indefinitely (not fired), and is told to get out of town until the scandal blows over. She retreats to Blue Cottage which was willed to her by her late Aunt Heather. Watching an old VHS tape her aunt recorded prior to her death she learns the nearby towns are populated with a cast of characters all somewhere between eccentric and nuts. She’s also told the guy next door is a reclusive author who is getting over a very bad, and very  short lived marriage. When Cassie watches the tape she learns her  aunt was a bit of a matchmaker.

I had a big problem with Cassie. In the first draft she was the primary narrator. I tried switching that to an anonymous narrator for draft 2 because Cassie came off sounding like a bit of a chatterbox. I wasn’t totally satisfied with the way the new narrator sounded and reverted back to chatterbox Cassie. I still wasn’t satisfied with the way Cassie sounded so I’m back to the anonymous narrator. I also remembered something. When something lifechanging / traumatic happens to a woman it often helps to talk with another woman. In the first draft Cassie had no female friends to speak of so in the second draft I created Carol Jenkins. Cassie met Carol when they were both at journalism school. Carol landed a job at a radio station different from Cassie’s but in the same city. They are so close they regard the other as a sister, and the other one is always there when times get tough. Cassie is also a rabid reader of romance novels and Carol discovers this when she arrives the evening Cassie is suspended. Carol arrives with comfort food which consists of Haagen-Dazs mint-chocolate ice cream, Lowenbrau Beer and four bags of Oreos. Carol essentially provides an ear for Cassie who is surprised at the mess she created.

In Chapter 3 Cassie discovers she has feelings for a man she has never met. Her next door neighbor is Peter James Christopher. He’s an author of three books of fiction but only the first two were wildly popular. The third just didn’t have the zest and enthusiasm the first two did. Peter has also been married before. After his divorce from the “she-devil” he is all by himself in Casa Christopher. He introduces himself to Cassie’s Aunt Heather. But he’s gun shy. After a most unpleasant marriage any serious relationship with a woman is the last thing on his mind. About a week before Aunt Heather dies from an ulcer Peter drops by and asks if he can do anything for her. Heather is listening to the radio and asks Peter to listen with her.  All Heather says is “Listen. That’s my niece”. No name. Nothing. Heather dies shortly after, and Peter slowly falls in love with a voice on the radio. Two years pass ( I may have changed that by the time you read this) and Cassie creates a scandal and is suspended indefinitely without pay or medical. She isn’t fired but is told not to come back until “you figure out what’s pissing you off”. Because of the scandal Cassie is advised to “get out of town”. She makes tracks to Blue Cottage – a place she hasn’t been in a few years –she could take her aunt in small doses. When it becomes hers she cleans it within an in of its life and stains the deck the brownish color you see in the photo. Hearing a voice that sounds very familiar Peter comes over. Cassie doesn’t notice him. This is Cassie’s first time staining anything. Peters voice is somewhat gravelly and he says “missed a spot”. Cassie is startled and begins to fall off the stairs on the left side of the photo. Peter catches her and for the first time sees the face of the woman who owns the voice he’s fallen in love with.

I have had to do a lot of re-writing. Right now the story is pretty different from drift #1.. First of all is the overall appearance. When I wrote draft 1 the font I chose was Georgia 14 point. In the second draft I switched to the font called Courier. I kept the font size at 14 because 12 point is too blasted small for these 63 year old eyes. Since I started writing this blog entry I’ve written three more chapters. So I’ve got six chapters to play with. I generally write the skeleton of a chapter one day, add the meat to the bones a day later, then edit the crap out of what I’ve written. I wish I could share this draft with you. Who knows, I may actually do it. But if I do I’m going to require some real honest to god comment. Not comments that say “I love it…keep going” but some real criticism. I tried having a person critique it. All they did was disembowel it. They ripped it apart and essentially had nothing polite to say about it. I’m looking for polite, useful criticism. I’m not asking for the moon just tell me what you think about the chapter. The whole time I was writing draft # 1 I think I got a total 3 comments. Some parts of the story might sound familiar while others will be brand new.

So its up to you…. you know the deal.     THA.

PS. Long chapters

The Time Tunnel-1966

linetime

I took a stroll down memory lane recently. I love writing because of this show. And I love history because of this show. When I was a boy watching this show I didn’t notice the plot holes you could drive an eighteen wheel truck through. But I did notice the story.

The Time Tunnel was the third television series created by Irwin Allen. First came the film Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea on July 12, 1961. A television series based on the film and utilizing the same name ran on the ABC network from September 14, 1964 to March 31, 1968. Just after the series began to air Irwin Allen turn his attention from inner space to outer space. Lost In Space aired on the CBS Network during the televisions seasons of 1965 to 1968. But in 1964 Irwin Allen started writing a forty-five page outline for a series that would eventually be called The Time Tunnel.

Irwin Allen commissioned Shimon Wincelberg to write the pilot script for the series. Wincelberg also wrote the script for the pilot for Lost In Space so Irwin Allen knew what to expect. Wincelberg also wrote for other series of the era such as Have Gun – Will Travel and Route 66. Only a handful of Allen’s original ideas would survive the re-writing process. He also added a number of new characters that would survive the re-write process and make it to the series, however still another re-write would take place.

The ABC Television network was interested but requested some changes before they would commit to the purchase of the series. The ABC television network was in a three way race and they were in third place. They wanted 1966 to be the year color came to TV. Up till then almost all the shows on TV were filmed in black and white and broadcast in black and white. But with the special effects the script called for the series would be very expensive to produce. Enter Jack Bloom.

linetime

Harold Jack Bloom spent most of his life writing scripts for TV. He wrote for The Man From U.N.C.L.E, 12 O’clock High, and Have Gun – Will Travel. He occasionally dabbled with film scripts. The Last of the Pharaohs, and the James Bond film You Only Live Twice are just two of the films he worked on. If you are a James Bond film fan you may be wondering where his credits are. Harry Saltzman and Cubby Brocolli would initially ask Bloom to write the film, but would find the script lacking. Roald Dahl would be brought in to spruce it up. He decided that many of Blooms ideas were worth keeping. Bloom did get some credit – “For additional material”.

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Harold Jack Bloom

Shimon Wincelberg only had one time traveller by the name of Peter Phillips. Bloom added a second traveller whose name was Tony Newman. Bloom also changed Peter Phillips first name to Doug. He made other changes too. General Kirk was originally a doctor. The bigwig from Washington who came to kill the super secret project was originally a woman. But by the time Bloom was through making changes this hatchet wielding person was now a man. He also added Dr. Ann MacGregor and Dr. Ray Swain. With these changes the budget could be met, and the series produced. He added Dr. MacGregor and Dr. Swain because as Wincelberg had it “Dr” Kirk would be doing all the work.

linetime 

With the script now settled on it came time to cast the show. James Darren(Gidget , The Guns Of Navarone , City Beneath The Sea ) was cast as Tony Newman. Robert Colbert (Colt .45, Maverick, Death Valley Days) was cast as the second time traveller.

James Darren      Robert Colbert     Whit Bissell

      James Darren                        Robert Colbert                            Whit Bissell

                John Zaremba     Lee Meriwether

                           John Zaremba                               Lee Meriwether

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Whit Bissell ( I Was A Teenage Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, The Creature From The Black Lagoon) was cast as General Kirk while the roles of the scientists went to John Zaremba (Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers) and former Miss America (1955)Lee Meriwether. This show was fantastic entertainment for a child of nine or ten years of age, but it was also obvious that the show didn’t place a great deal of emphasis on accuracy. In the pilot episode that was aired (the original pilot episode ran too long but was included in the DVD set that finally came on the market) the name of the captain of The Titanic was Malcolm. History tells us his first name was actually Edward and went by the nickname “E.J.”. The Time Tunnel introduced kids to the RMS Titanic, Halley’s Comet, and the island of Krakatoa. The cancellation of the show is still a matter of debate in some circles. But the fact remains that by early 1967 The Time Tunnel was just scraping by in the ratings. And for one unnamed ABC executive scraping by just wasn’t good enough. He wanted to cancel The Time Tunnel and replace with it with a show called Custer (named after the United States general who did so well at the battle of Little Bighorn). One day in the spring of ‘67 Time Tunnel was renewed. The next it was dead and replaced with Custer. Custer died a quick death, doing far worse than The Time Tunnel and lasting only a handful of shows. But the damage had been done. The Time Tunnel had been cancelled and all actors had moved on. The sets had been struck (demolished), and The Time Tunnel would remain a glimmer in Irwin Allen’s eye. Of all the series he created (there were four) The Time tunnel was his favorite. In the seventies he tried to breath new life into the failed series. Even after his death his wife tried to reboot the series in 2002. Again, the attempt failed. The Time Tunnel will remain a cheesy series with really lousy writing. But it will remain a gem in the heart of its many fans.

Just in case you think the music sounds familiar well…it should. The Time Tunnel was one of his first major jobs. John Williams, the man who wrote the scores for Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind wrote the music for The Time Tunnel. Only as Johnny Williams.

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Chapter 2 – The Next Plain

It was a very strange sensation floating above my own body. And I was very anxious to hear Morgans reply to Dr. McCallum’s question. While I looked down at the proceedings I could swear I could hear footsteps but nobody I could see was moving. And the bedroom floor was carpeted and would have muffled any such sound. Still, the sound became louder then stopped.

“Enjoying the view?” said a voice I’d never heard before.

The words came from behind me. A man wearing a white suit was standing behind me licking an ice cream cone.

“Sorry, don’t mean to intrude. The name’s Oscar”.

I turned my attention back to my bedroom. Morgan started talking but hearing him soon became harder. It was strange but it looked like a fog bank had entered my bedroom. Soon I couldn’t see Morgan or Dr. McCallum at all. I turned to Oscar only to find him behind me.

“Is this normal or is there something I should know?” I asked.

“Oh, I assure you, this is quite normal. You’ve got to remember you’re no longer flesh and blood. Your body is but I assure you are not. And you’re not a ghost. At least not yet. Right now you’re what you mortals call the spirit”.

Oscar was wearing a white suit. His shoes were white. Even his socks were white. Everything was white. The walls, the ceiling, and the floor were white. I wanted to find out more. But with nothing to differentiate between the wall ceiling and floor, it made navigating a bit dodgy. Oscar did look a bit familiar. I looked in every possible direction and everything was white. Telephones looked like telephones when I was much younger. Phone books were back too. Except that the yellow pages were now white. Oscar’s expression was one of amusement. I looked at Oscar and tried to place the face. I had this nagging feeling I had seen him before, and was quietly going around the bend. Finally, I simply asked him the question I needed an answer to.

“I don’t mean to be rude but have we ever met?” I asked.

“Oh goodness no. I have this particular face because it’s similar to that of a person you knew when you were much younger. It was felt that if you saw a familiar face it would make the transition easier. You must be wondering where you are” he replied.

“I was. Is this heaven?” I asked with a certain amount of trepidation.

“Nope” answered Oscar

Surprised I asked him the next logical question.

“You mean this is the other place? The air feels rather comfy. I thought it would be a tad warmer if you know what I mean”.

“Nope. This certainly is most certainly not hell whatever that is”.

“Then where am I?”

“You humans think in absolutes far too much. For some reason, you seem to think there are only two possible places you could be. This is neither of those places. When a person dies it’s not the end of life. It’s quite the contrary. You seem to think that if you can’t see or breath that your existence has come to an end. All this is is a place where you can rest for as long as you like. When you’re ready to begin the next stage, the stage of transition, we’ll continue. But I have a feeling you’d be more comfortable wearing something else other than your pajamas”.

Oscar snapped his fingers and I was suddenly wearing a white suit too. He adjusted my tie. “Would you care for a hat Norman? Homburg, Fedora or Bowler?”

I declined the offer as politely as I could. I never really could stand hats. I never could put my finger on the particular reason outside of the fact they made my scalp itch. I was surprised when he used my given name.

“Why did you wait until now to call me by my name?” I asked.

“Sometimes when a person dies it can be most unexpected and a tad traumatic. Let’s use the example of a person crossing the street. When they start walking across a street the thought of being hit by a beer truck is pretty far down on their list of possible outcomes. So when it happens, and it happens far more than you know, the person can rather upset. Let’s look at you now. You knew you were going to die and you had time to prepare for it. You more or less said let’s get this show on the road”.

It’s true. I did think of those very words. But why did he wait so long to use my name?

“Somebody who experiences a death that was unexpected and or traumatic can very flustered when they get here. I’ve found that it’s best not to use their given name until they’ve made the transition from dying to being here. Too much change, fast change, can cause a great deal of trouble. You, on the other hand, made a very smooth transition and you were ready to meet me”.

I did my best to understand Oscar but there were some subjects he was avoiding quite deliberately. I wanted to know where my wife Mary was. He declined to answer and that angered me. He answered questions that corresponded with his agenda and nothing else. He also seemed to enjoy hearing himself talk.

“Would you like to see your apartment?” asked Oscar.

“I have an apartment? Who is paying for it?”.

“You most certainly have an apartment. As to your question about who is paying for it is another matter altogether. Here, the system of economics is somewhat different from what you’re used to. Those who choose to exist in this realm are free to collect wealth if they wish, but most of the population is no longer concerned with the accumulation of wealth”.

As we walked through the front door of the apartment I had a sudden desire to see color. Any color other than white.

“Fine, your economic system is different. But if I understand you you’re saying a person has living quarters is assigned. Is that correct?”.

“Norman I’m not easily surprised. I think the last time it happened was about five hundred years ago. But you have just surprised me and I thank for that feeling” he said to me in an excited tone.

I stopped walking around the apartment. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I leaned on the stove, which was white, and asked some more questions.

“I’m sorry if I’m breaking any rules but just how old are you? You look like you’re in your thirties” I asked not expecting him to give me any kind of meaningful response.

“I was an old man when I died one thousand and thirty years ago. That’s how long I’ve been a transition conductor” he answered.

My head dropped and my jaw dropped.

“I didn’t mean to pry but try to look at things from my point of view. If you had just died and you found yourself here you’d be asking all manner of questions. Then if some fellow told you he was one thousand and thirty years old you’d be wondering about a great many things. Everything here is so white. Would it be possible to ask for a splash of color? After all, if this apartment is mine, some color would be greatly appreciated” I pleaded.

Oscar thought about what I had said.

“I can request on your behalf, but I must caution you not to expect a quick response. Politics is the same everywhere in the universe”.

“If you mean slow I’m used to that” I added.

“I shouldn’t say this but this place suffers from political constipation”.

The flap over flapping

Right Hand

The following is a combination of what I can remember, what I think might have happened, and what I know for a fact did happen. I lived this hell.

It was somewhere after 9:00 AM that my own personal hell began. I didn’t know what to call it then, and still don’t. But it was hell. My own personal Hell.

It was early in school year. Mr. Stoynoff, my grade 2 teacher, was having parent-teacher consultations. If you’re an adult now you know what I’m talking about. Your mom or dad talks with the teacher about you. The following is a theoretical transcript of what I think might have happened.

Mr. S. – Glad to meet you Mrs. Austin. May I ask you a question?. From time to time Toms shoots his arm  and he waves his hand in front of his face. Does he do this at home?

Mom – His father and I have noticed this too. We’re taking him to our family doctor to see if he can shed any light on this.

Now, Dr. Cox was a great doctor. His prowess at giving injections was second to none, however his ability to communicate verbally with some of his more diminutive patients stank. The parents were told what was going to happen and it left to them to explain what was going to happen. I don’t recall either of my parents actually telling me anything. All they might have said was something like this.

Mum: “You’re not going to school tomorrow. You and I are going to accompany your father when he goes to work. And in few hours we’re all going to see Dr. John Stobo Prichard at Sick Children’s Hospital”.

There are few words in the English language that strike fear and terror into a kids heart and “Hospital” was #1 or near number one. That’s were vampires lived and nurses gave you four foot long needles. When we met Dr. John Stobo Prichard I noticed he talked strangely. I quietly asked mum why he sounded funny. She said it was because he was English. He wasn’t. He was Welsh. When I was growing up few adults had genuine interest in what I was doing. Most feigned interest. When I was 7 I was in my dinosaur phase. I couldn’t get enough of them. Dr. Prichard and I talked about dinosaurs for what seemed like hours. He asked me (remember….I was 7) if I would consent to some tests. I consented on the basis that any doctor who liked dinosaurs couldn’t be all that bad. A nurse, who was about as attractive as The Phantom Of The Opera, took so much blood out of me I think I shrunk. And at seven years of age you can’t afford to lose any height. After Vampirella was through with me Dr. Prichard asked me to have an E.E.G. I said “okay as long as there are no needles”. The E.E.G. machine was about ten feet long (Remember….this is the fall of 1964). Today, in 2019, E.E.G. machines are about the size of the first laptop computers. My first E.E.G. had this light which strobed at different speeds. After all was said and done it turned out I was allergic to an unseen wavelength of light. And that I was borderline epileptic. I learned a whole more after my first seizure when I was 13 but that’s another post. Dr. Prichard and Dr. Cox put me on orange flavoured goop called phenobarb. My hand simulated the strobing of a light source and I….well, sort “zoned-out” for a few seconds. I became different and a prime target for some of the worst teasing and taunting imaginable.

Kids can be really cruel and some can be really nasty. And at school some kids teased me when ever they could which was most of the time. I remember many a lunch when I would trudge home crying and miserable from all the teasing. When kids tease they can be really creative. They teased from nine in the morning till 3:30 in the afternoon. Even after school I wasn’t safe. They would taunt me all the way home. But the absolute worst insult was they called me a “retard”.

I decided to call this hand waving flapping. It sounded and looked like a bird flapping its wings. And they’d taunt me. I didn’t know I was doing it. All I know there were less and less kids to play with. I was so unhappy I wanted the earth to eat me alive. During my entire childhood I was only invited to only one birthday party. My brothers weren’t quite sure what to do with me and life  became lonelier and lonelier. Grade three was awful. Miss Smuckler was a real piece of work. She only wore black (at least it seemed that way), and had horn rimmed glasses. There were 45 pupils in my class with half of us in grade 3 and the other half in grade 4. At Blythwood Public School life was miserable. My friends became fewer and fewer until I only had a handful. The teacher didn’t have a clue what to do with me, and the flapping was getting worse and worse.

My teacher in grade four was Mrs. Kerr. She was neat. She got a kick out the Charlie Brown comic strip. She was able to look past the flapping which was now happening with alarming regularity. At recess there was this one kid named Fred who liked to get his jollies by teasing me. One day he went too far with his “retard” comments. I went ballistic in the extreme. Fred was too busy flapping his gums and getting me furious. With no warning I lashed out. I gave him three shots to his abdomen which made him double over. When he bent over to prevent further pummeling to his stomach I slugged him as hard as I could in the side of his head. He went down. I knocked him out cold. After this experience Fred gave me a wide berth and was a little more conservative with his teasing. Grade five was horrible. The staff didn’t know what to make of me. The French teacher really had it in for me. Whenever she called on you you had to stand. And one day she called on me when the flapping was really bad. She asked me this question. Nervous as hell I started to flap. Then she got under the collar about my flapping and not answering her. Then she really lost it and called me a fool. Well, the rest of the class came to complete stand still. No student had ever been called a fool before and slowly the class looked at me. I was so embarrassed, so humiliated, I pulled the neck of my turtle neck sweater over my head and sat down. The teacher went on to pester someone else. I knew I soon be going to Glenview Senior Public and there was no way on gods green earth this private hell was going to follow me there. I started looking for something to weigh my arm down. I experimented with lead. Too little wouldn’t work at all and too much…well, I might knock myself out. I needed to secure it to my wrist too. The only good thing about grade five was leaving it. That summer (1968) I went to Kilcoo Camp. For a month the flapping wasn’t much of a concern. I felt relatively relaxed. And for once I finally felt like I fit in. You couldn’t tell if I was flapping or brushing away mosquitoes. Grade six was mildly informative when the teacher, Mr. Legge, wasn’t salivating about his car (a Dodge Charger) or using his wife’s hairspray to slick down his hair. I have never seen a guy so obsessed with his appearance. That summer (1969) two things happened that helped me form a plan. In July mankind landed on the moon for the first time. The papers covered every conceivable angle. I saw the kind of strap I would need to hold the lead in place. At Kilcoo a counselor-in-training (C-I-T) had an ankle injury and was required to wear a lead ankle bracelet to strengthen a tendon. When I came home I bought a five pound ankle bracelet of lead shot. I wore that ankle bracelet on my wrist the entire time I was in grade 7. If anybody asked why I wore it I’d say it was to strengthen a weak arm muscle. The only time I didn’t wear the bracelet was when I was asleep or in the shower. I wore the bracelet for an entire year. In August 1968 I took the bracelet of lead shot off my wrist and I haven’t flapped since.

I chose lead because it’s a soft metal, mailable, and it’s inexpensive. And because another year of hell simply wasn’t an option.

Chapter 13B – The Beginning

ontario-family-court-system

The first month was the roughest. We had to arrange three funerals and get Chez Willowby ready for sale. And it was toughest on Kenny. Thank goodness for Mr. Langtree.

One day shortly after the last funeral Kenny came home from school with a slip of paper Peter and I to sign. It was your standard parental permission slip for a school trip. You know the kind. You probably brought dozens home. As Kenny’s godparents, we didn’t give the matter a second thought. We should have. The school recognized Trina’s letter to us and her signature. However, godparents are not legally recognized as parents or guardians. Godparents are simply a religious or spiritual concoction. Godparents have no legal standing at all. After meeting with my aunts’ lawyer, Mr. Langtree, he explained our options to Peter and me which were next to non-existent. Trina wanted us to raise her son. A godparent has no legal standing to do anything for the child. To sign a simple parental permission slip, we had to adopt Kenny. We wanted to adopt Kenny but first, we had to grapple with a daunting question – did he want us?

Trina helped a lot by naming us specifically, but a godparents role is largely ceremonial. We wanted to change that.

We met in Mr. Langtrees office. We didn’t dress formally. He asked us to dress casually and for Kenny to do the same. As we entered his legal office Kenny’s eyes went incredibly wide.

“Wow, he sure has a lot of books”. Kenny was right. There were hundreds of legal tomes on shelves which seemed to be everywhere. There were some computer terminals but Kenny was impressed with the books which seemed to stretch on forever. As Mr. Langtree came out of his office he saw the fascination and awe on Kennys face.

“And you must be Kenny. How many books do you think there are?”

Kenny looked at all the books studying each one. “A thousand?”

Mr. Langtree chuckled. “No, good guess though. Three times as many”

Kenny took that information and did what he could with it. “Wow, you have three thousand books?”

Mr. Langtree laughed, tussled Kennys hair then put his hands in his pockets. “Not quite. Would you believe me if I told you I have three thousand and ninety-seven books?”

His eyes just about popped out of his head. I gently pushed him towards the formal looking office. He looked at every inch of the office and saw more books. But the part he liked best was the leather chairs. He climbed into one and looked very comfortable. The bankers light on the desk somehow looked out of place. So did the rice paper wallpaper.

As Mr. Langtree sat down he pulled out a small file folder and a large yellow legal pad and put them on his desk. He made a few notes, tore the pages from the legal pad and placed them inside the file folder. He then tossed the legal pad beside his inbox. He looked right at Peter and me.

“Okay, let’s see if I’ve got this right. Trina Willowby, deceased, asked you both to raise her son. She asked you in a letter. But right now you’re not the legal guardians. So you’re looking at adoption. Have I got that part right?” Peter answered.

“I know we’re only godparents, but I think we should make it legal. We can’t do anything a parent-” Kenny suddenly gave Peter the eye. Peter put his hand up and told him to relax. “Relax Kenny. Nobodies trying to take the place of your mom or your grandparents”. He then continued talking to Mr. Langtree. “As I was saying we can’t do anything a parent or guardian can. Cassie and I would like to legally adopt Kenny. Its fine with us if he wants to keep his surname or he wants to take my name. We just want him to be safe and have a home. A home with two people who love him and can act as his guardians till he’s of age. His mother asked us to raise him. Not Children’s Aid. Us.”

Mr. Langtree made some more notes on his legal pad then looked up at us.

“Normally what you want to do would be very difficult. But Trina made things much easier. She put her wishes on paper and specifically named both of you. The court will rule it what it believes are the best wishes of the child. But right now I would like to talk to Kenny. Alone.”

As Peter and I shuffled out the office Mr. Langtree asked to see the letter from Trina outlining her wishes regarding Kenny. I reached into my purse and handed it to him.

“Is this the only copy?” he asked.

I nodded my head.

“I’ll have ten copies made that will be certified and notarized. You’ll need every copy until the court awards you full custody. It’s not a sure bet but the court rarely changes the wishes of the mother. But before it does grant you custody a home check made by the court. They just want to make sure its a safe and happy home.”

Mr. Langtree closed the door to his office. I had no idea adoption could be so involved. And a home visit. I don’t know why but idea terrified me.

***

A few weeks later a young woman knocked on the door of Casa Christopher. As soon as I answered she pulled out her identification.

“Hello, Mrs. Christopher. My name is Lucy Singh. The court has appointed me to make out a report concerning the home life for the minor named Kenny Willowby. Is he at home?”

“Kenny is still in school. He won’t be home for another half hour.”

“That’s just perfect. I’ll just look around and make some notes. This is the sort of place my husband and I are looking for. We don’t have any children yet but we want to change that.”

Miss Singh looked in cupboards and made notes. She looked at what I was wearing and made notes. She went over to Peters study where he was working on the latest batch of rewrites requests from Random House. She went right into his study without being invited. Then she started pestering him with questions.

“I understand you had throat cancer a year ago. Does that affect the way you and Kenny communicate?”.

“Not really. He knows my voice has good days and bad days. If he can’t understand what I’m saying he hands me the iPad. Typing out what I’m saying almost always takes longer than saying it but sometimes ordinary words can’t convey the emotion behind the sentence. And that’s where confusion can set in.” said Peter.

“How does Kenny react when this happens?”

“Kenny knows that not being able to say what I want to say is very frustrating for me. If he doesn’t understand what I’m saying verbally he usually hands me the iPad and I “dumb it down” for him using much more simplistic language. He’s become more patient with me and will do his best to make things easier for me. Right now if we go into a restaurant and the radio is blaring away he knows my voice can’t compete with that and speaks for me.”

“Where does the boy play?”

Peter took exception to Miss Singh referring to Kenny as “the boy”.

“I believe you meant to say “Kenny” or “your godson”. I know you’ve probably got dozens of these reports to fill out but how would you feel if somebody called you “the woman.”

“I understand your anger. If-”

“Miss Singh, I don’t think you do. Firstly, I’m not angry. What you’re hearing in my voice is simple frustration. It’s not anger. What you may not understand is that our relationship with Kenny didn’t begin until last Christmas. First, he drafted Cassie as his “hot looking” aunt. Then he realized that when Cassie and I married I would be his uncle. Then four months later when his mother and grandparents passed away and Cassie and I were on our honeymoon we discovered we were now his godparents. I went from friend to uncle to godparent in a dizzying number of months. So I’m a bit touchy about titles you give anyone.”

Miss Singh adjusted an armload of case folders, and Peter showed her the basement where all Kennys toys were. She was surprised by the size of the slot car set.

“I can remember my brother having one of these only it wasn’t so big! He never let me use it.” Peter saw her eyeing it and offered her the chance to fulfill a childhood dream.

“I really shouldn’t…”

“I won’t tell him if you don’t”

“Oh, what the heck. What do I do?”

At this point, I came down the stairs. Miss Singh was holding a hand controller. That’s when I spoke up.

“Peter and Kenny spend a lot of time down here. This game is great for sharpening eye-hand coordination. And they’re always changing the track configuration. Sometimes is easy and sometimes it’s not. And it’s never the same shape two weeks in a row.”

After a short race (which Peter let her win) she was off.

***

Three weeks passed between meeting Miss Singh and our next phone call from Mr. Langtree. We were close to chewing furniture we were so anxious. So when the call came I pounced on the phone in the kitchen and Peter answered from the study. More revisions. More detail. More clarifications.

“Hello” I bellowed into the phone by accident. I didn’t mean to be so loud. I was just nervous when I looked at the caller ID.

Because of the damage done by the cancer, Peter developed his own rather unique way of answering the phone. It was based on the advice Dr. Willowby gave Peter not long ago. “When you are using your phone try to use words of one or two syllables. You’ll put less stress on your vocal cords” Over time through a great deal of experimentation Peter settled on “‘ lo, yes?”.

“Great, got you both. I got news and a question. Which do you want first”

We hadn’t heard from him in some time so I barked the word “news”.

“Well, the news is that the judge was all set to rule in your favor. The home visit report was as good as it could be. Miss Singh was more than satisfied your place would provide a safe, happy, loving home for Kenny.”

“But…” uttered Peter from the study.

“Some fellow named James Wilson is challenging your petition to adopt Kenny. He claims he is Kennys biological father.”

“Oh shit!” I said. I thought I said it quietly but not as quietly as I hoped.

“That exactly what I first thought. Then I remembered Trina had him declared legally dead. Despite what the movies tell you it’s bloody hard to come back from the dead. Now before either one of you get your stomachs in an uproar I’ve finally located Kennys birth record. He was born in Lindsay Memorial as we suspected. And James Wilson is listed as the father. Can both of you be in court tomorrow?”

“What’s going to happen?” asked Peter a millisecond before I could.

“I’m going to take this nasty little troll apart. I’m going to expose him for the money-hungry bastard he is.”

“How do you know he’s money-hungry,” asked Peter. Mr. Langtree then put forth a litany of reasons he doesn’t care for James Wilson.

“When all three wills finish going through probate Kenny is going to be rather wealthy. James Wilson was barely making a living working on a steamer in France. But this character has more strikes against him than he knows. First, he abandoned his family. Then he didn’t pay a cent in child support. To make matters worse he left the country illegally. His record of bad decisions doesn’t stop there. He flew to France under a false passport. When he surfaced again he became employed under a false name. He was never legally employed in France. In the past ten years, he’s incurred some rather significant debts while in France. This guy must be a product of swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool. This guy hasn’t paid taxes in France and France wants their money. With interest!  And the Feds want tax money too. If he gets custody of Kenny he’ll be in charge of all Kenny’s money till Kenny comes of legal age.”

Not quite sure what I was hearing I stopped Mr. Langtree dead in his tracks.

“Maybe I’m missing something but why do you want Peter and me there?”

Mr. Langtree sounded winded. And a little frustrated with me.

“Cassie, I want you and Peter there for moral support. Plus if the judge can see your faces it could go a long way to gaining custody. Right now you’re nothing but faceless names. It’ll help a helluva lot if the judge can put a face to a name.”

***

The judge came into the courtroom and it was obvious she was not happy. The bailiff called the court to order.  The judge started speaking.

“Anyone seated in the visitor’s gallery will notice I’m not wearing a smile. I was all set to make my ruling and write my judgment when I got a surprise. And anybody that knows me will know I don’t care surprises of any kind. James Wilson, are you represented by counsel?”

A man in an ill-fitting suit stood up.

“No madam judge.”

The judge closed her eyes and started muttering. She turned and looked right at him.

“For future reference whenever you address me you will use the words, your honor. Is that understood?”

“Yes Ma’am”

The judge was clearly upset by this response and started shaking her head.

“I fear I already know the answer to this question but where is your lawyer?” asked the judge looking very drawn and tired.

Mr. Wilson picked up some papers and appeared to shuffle them. It looked like he was hoping for his lawyer to drop out the pages he picked up.

“I don’t have one ma’am”.

“These are adoption proceedings Mr. Wilson and not traffic court! You cannot represent yourself! You have a choice before you. You have one hour to get a lawyer or you can withdraw your petition to assume the guardianship of the minor Kenneth Willowby. Will you have a lawyer in one hour?” the judge demanded.

Mr. Langtree approached the bench and a slowly simmering judge. The two spoke in hushed tones. The judge raised her eyebrows then cradled her head with her hand. When they were through talking he rushed to where Peter and I were sitting.

“If it’s alright with you two I just volunteered to be Mr. Wilson’s lawyer. There won’t be a conflict of interest. I just ask him questions. Hopefully just enough to hang himself and get this matter settled today. I can do this but the judge wants me to get your permission first so it’s up to both of you. But before you decide I’d like one of you to get Kenny. He should be here. I want the judge to see him and him to see his biological father.” I held on to Peter’s hand so tightly there was sweat on his brow. Peter nodded and simply said “GO”. I was a little more eloquent. “Destroy the little twerp”.

The judge had a glass of water, composed herself, then addressed Mr. Wilson.

“Mr. Wilson, the lawyer for the Christopher family has graciously volunteered to be your lawyer. All he is going to do is ask you a few questions to see how if you are fit to be a parent. But before we proceed this court will adjourn for one hour.”

As soon as the judge went into her chambers Peter bolted. He went to get Kenny. He knew the school would object but when they found out he had been asked to appear in family court but they would have to let him go. Mr. Langtree even provided a summons for Kenny if needed. I cooled my heels in the hall of the courthouse. I was as nervous as I was the first time I knocked on Peters door. Mr. Langtree sat beside me and tried to calm me down.

“Relax Cassie. I’m just going to ask him a few questions”.

I turned and grabbed the lapels of his jacket. There were tears in my eyes and I started crying.

“I love him more than you can know. I just want this to be over and take him to home. Is that so much to ask?” He turned his head and started looking down the hall for Peter and Kenny.

“I’ll wait here. You go into the ladies room and compose yourself. When we go back in I want the judge to see what a close, loving family you are. As god is my witness I’m going to do my best to make sure Kenny is your son by dinner time.”

Peter and Kenny came running up the stairs. They went into the men’s room to make themselves presentable. Peter mopped the sweat from his brow then from Kenny’s forehead. Peter put on a new tie and Kenny put on a permanent press shirt and tie. When they emerged Mr. Langtree gave them both another inspection.

“OK, you’re to go”. Then the chimes outside the courtroom went off. Our hour was up.

***

We entered the courtroom and took our seats. We reminded Kenny not to say a word. Mr. Langtree came into the courtroom and placed his attaché case on the tabletop before him. Then the judge came back in. The bailiff swore us in. Mr. Wilson was nowhere to be seen. Then the judge spoke.

“Mr. Langtree, do you have any idea just where Mr. Wilson might be?”

Mr. Langtree rose from his seat, buttoned his jacket, and addressed the judge.

“No, your honor I don’t.”

“He is now testing the patience of this court. If he is not in this room in ten minutes a bench warrant will be issued for his immediate arrest and his petition for guardianship of the minor know as Kenneth Willowby tossed out.”

I started looking at Kenny and my watch. After five minutes had passed Mr. Wilson oozed in mildly intoxicated. Not a good thing to do at all. The judge addressed Mr. Wilson.

“Mr. Wilson. Are you intoxicated?”

“To the gills babe, to the gills”.

The judge was already simmering but Mr. Wilson’s answer brought her to a fast boil.

“That’s it!. You have reached the limits of my patience. I find you in contempt of this court and its proceedings. I’m fining you twenty-five thousand dollars and dismissing your petition for guardianship. You have the option of paying the fine now. If you cannot pay you’re looking at a jail term. Which is going to be?”

“Which way to the dungeon?”he sang melodically.

“One last thing Mr. Wilson. You are not to contact Mr. Christopher, Mrs. Christopher, or their son in any way, ever! Do you understand me?” she said slowly.

Mr. Wilson pulled a bottle from his pocket and took a drink.

“Keep your hair on. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. Don’t say anything to those folks over there. Gotcha. Mums the word.”

A bailiff walked over to Mr. Wilson and led him out of the room where he was handcuffed, fingerprinted, and photographed. A boy should never see his father handcuffed. The judge then spoke directly to us.

“On behalf of the Family Court of Ontario, I must apologize to you for what you have witnessed. I also welcome you to the family of parents. It gives me great pride to grant you full guardianship of Kenny. Kenny, have you decided what your last name will be?

“You bet. I’m a Christopher like my mom and dad!”

I started hugging my son and bawling my eyes out. Then the judge spoke at Peter and me.

“Mr. And Mrs. Christopher. As a parent I can tell you they grow up fast. So make the most of it.”

***

We had a celebratory dinner at Gelert Gardens. On the way back I was in the back seat. I noticed that Kenny smelled a bit ripe. No doubt it was from all the tension. I laid down my first parental edict. “You, master Kenneth, are going to have a bath when we get home. You smell”. Kenny tried protesting but it was to no avail. “Aw Gee Mom!” I’ve never heard words so sweet.

THE END

I’m going to recharge my batteries, bury my moms ashes, and take a rest. I’ll be back at the end of September or early October.