Blue Cottage- Chapter 2A

     Story by Tom Austin   Written Tom Austin   Revised by Meg Sorick

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Chapter 2 – Blue Cottage

Cassette 1 Entry 2

I’m dictating this as I drive to Norland. I want to learn about the people in Norland, and Coboconk. I want to find some of the characters my aunt told me about. Eric the Pirate is the primary person to find. Men talk to their mechanic like they talk to their bartender. I also need to find a place where I can get my hair done. I’m going to park outside the A & P store.”

As I walked in, a gigantic rack of picture postcards caught my eye and I had to stop to look. Some of them showed Norland the way it was fifty years ago. It was fascinating to see how little the town had changed. I purchased one copy of every postcard. As I shuffled through the pile, I stopped at one with a photograph of the town sign, reading ‘Norland, Population 200’ and nothing else. But I didn’t recall seeing this sign when I drove through the town the previous day.

An old man approached the counter and stole a glance at the card in my hand. “Yep, that sign was up for almost fifty years. People could never understand why the population never changed. They always thought it stayed at two hundred. Someone actually started a rumor that Norland was inhabited by witches and warlocks, and whenever the population got over two hundred, we held sacrifices to keep the number in check!” He chuckled. “Excuse me, where are my manners. The names Mervin Lemay. Say, you look kinda familiar. You one of those TV types?”

“Guilty as charged. My name is Cassandra Carter, I’m a reporter for CKMT.”

“Is that so? What brings you to Norland?”

“I’m the new owner of Blue Cottage on Shadow Lake. My aunt left me the cottage in her will.”

“You mean you’re related to Heather Carter?”

“Again, guilty as charged. I haven’t been up here in twenty years. Do you think you could tell me about a bit about the town, my neighbors, that sort of thing? It would help me get a feel for the place. You see, I’m trying to decide if I should move up here permanently.”

After wiping his hands on his apron, Mr. Lemay came out from behind the counter. “Now where did I put those blasted reading glasses of mine?” he grumbled while patting himself down in a futile search.

I stifled a smile. Obviously, Mr. Lemay was a bit forgetful —he was wearing his glasses. I tried to think of a polite way to tell him, but diplomacy has never been my strong suit so I just blurted, “You’re wearing them, Mr. Lemay.”

Reaching up to feel the frames grasping his head, he started to blush. “Well, what d’ya know.” He waved a hand and continued, “Let’s start your education by taking a look at some those postcards.”

200_Valentine_BA_station

I handed him my pile. He tapped a finger on the first one. “This shows the store and gas station next door as it appeared fifty years ago. As you can, see not much has changed.” He shuffled through the cards telling a little story of each scene. When he had finished, he handed the pile back to me.

“Now, your neighbors. You have P.G. Webb on the one side and Peter James Christopher on the other, but you probably knew that. Mr. Webb and his wife started off as weekenders. But then Mr. Webb decided to move here shortly after Mrs. Webb passed away. Such a shame… Anyway, Mr. Christopher is another story. He and his wife moved up here not long before your aunt died. Mrs. Christopher didn’t care for this lifestyle and the two split up.” He leaned in close, “Between you and me, she was a nasty piece of work. Never satisfied and always expected things to happen at the snap of her fingers. Now, him— he’s a completely different breed of cat. Keeps to himself. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve seen him in almost two years. He even has his food delivered to the cottage. The orders come in through email, can you believe it? Must be some kind of recluse or something. A writer, I think. And a pretty good one from what I gather.”

Now that had to be the understatement of the year. If this was the Peter James Christopher, then he was the author of three books of fiction, two of them wildly popular. His most recent book didn’t do as well as the first two. Critics all agreed that something was missing. It just didn’t have that Peter James Christopher feel to it, that special something that made you want to buy the book, then devour every word. What had happened? Had he lost his touch? Mr. Lemay interrupted my thoughts.

“Now, your late Aunt Heather. She was my definition of a lady. Old fashioned manners and what not. She always said please and thank you. Let the fellows open and close the door for her.” He held up a finger. “But I should add that she was a bit of a free spirit too. Wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and if the moment called for it, she would say damn. Though I can’t say I ever heard her use those other four letter words that are so popular these days—”

“Oh, she used them,” I cut in. “Very rarely, but she had her own special collection of colorful words. Damn was her favorite. Once, when I was ten, I watched her change the oil in her car. She’d say “futz” instead of the other F-word a lot, most likely because I was there. If she only knew… By then, my vocabulary of swear words was already pretty well established. I even knew a few she never used.”

Mr. Lemay studied me for a few seconds, then took off his glasses and proceeded to clean them with the hem of his apron. “I can’t imagine you swearing like a sailor Miss Carter,” he said.

I blushed a tiny bit because he was clearly flirting with me.

“I try not to but I do have my moments.” Then, to change the subject, I asked, “Is there anything else you can tell me about the reclusive Mr. Christopher?”

“That’s pretty well it. Since you’re one those journalistic types why don’t you simply interview the guy, or whatever it is you do?”

The man had a point. A very good one. I might be a journalist without standing at present, but I could still conduct an interview. With that, I thanked Mr. Lemay for his time and the information and headed back to the cottage. Only this time the trip would be more memorable. As I drove along highway 45, I spotted a family of raccoon’s crossing the highway. Apparently, Mama raccoon was teaching her brood a hard lesson. It appeared that Papa raccoon had been leading the pack when he got clipped by a car. As Mama approached his lifeless body, she slowed, clearly mourning him, and turned to the little ones as if to say, ‘you see what can happen?’ before hurrying them across the road. I slowed down to allow the parade of nocturnal bandits to pass. Despite their recent tragedy, they weren’t terribly intimidated by my car. I guess I don’t blame them. A cute little chipmunk eyed my car as I drove into town yesterday and I swear he was laughing at it. Okay. It’s not a great, nasty muscle car that gets four miles to the gallon and belches out fumes like there’s no tomorrow, but it gets me where I want to go.

As I turned onto Buller Road, I began to dread another run-in with the bull. Looking around, I didn’t see him, but it was clear he had been there recently. His left his calling card was smack in the middle of the road. Great. A load of bull crap under my tires. Literally. I managed to drive around it, but couldn’t help but think he had done this on purpose just to screw up my day. Once again, I tested the limits of my suspension on the way back to Blue Cottage, but made it there without incident. After stowing my few parcels, I set out for the cottage next door.

I knocked on the screen door. Nothing. I could hear the faint sounds of the radio playing. As I opened the screen door, I realized my hands were shaking. I was as jittery as I was on my very first job interview. I curled the fingers of my right hand and knocked. Still nothing. I was about to knock again when the completely unexpected happened— a knock from inside. Then the ‘thunk’ of a bolt lock moving and the ‘scrape’ of a tiny chain lock sliding open. I held my breath. A gravelly, almost unintelligible voice rasped, “Hold your flippin’ horses. I’m coming!” And, an angry, “if this is a survey I think I’ll spit nails,” probably not meant for me to hear.

The door opened to reveal a man in his forties wearing dark jeans and a blue shirt. His brown hair complimented his hazel eyes. When he saw me, he held up one finger as if to say “just one moment” and handed me a card that said:

“Squamous cell carcinoma – throat cancer”

The delay gave me a chance to take a good look at my new neighbor. His skin was the color of ash, and his gaunt figure made the blue shirt hang on him. He had obviously lost a significant amount of weight. Nevertheless, I tried to put a positive note in my voice.

“I’m Cassie Carter, your new neighbor. I own Blue Cottage.” I extended my hand. He shook it but the handshake was pretty weak.

Mr. Christopher stepped back to let me enter, then put his hands in his pockets and looked me up and down. I felt very uneasy —like a piece of meat might feel being sized up by a butcher.

“Turn around, please,” he growled. At least that’s what I thought he said. And for some reason, I did turn.

“Good. No recording devices. Sorry, but I had to check. I know exactly who and what you are Miss Carter. Even though CKMT has yet to announce it, I suspect they either let you go or put you on some sort of leave. I have nothing against you or your profession. I’m just not terribly fond of some other journalists.”

Most of my instincts told me to leave but the journalist in me told me to stay. I stayed.

Mr. Christopher tried to speak, but it seemed that he had very little control over the pitch in his voice. With obvious frustration, he tried again. Words with two or more syllables were the hardest. When he said my last name ‘Carter,’ the ‘car’ sound came out high in pitch while the ‘ter’ sound came out very low in pitch. It conjured an image in my mind of a barrel-chested operatic tenor on helium. I started to snicker. He politely ignored it.

“Coffee, Miss Carter?” he asked slowly and gesturing towards the coffee jar.

“Yes, please,” I said, with relief. And to break the tension, I went on, “That bull at the top of the road seems to think he’s king of the world. And I think he has it in for my car.”

The author busied himself in the kitchen, making the coffee. While the coffee maker gurgled, huffed and chuffed, he typed on an iPad. When the coffee was ready, he prepared a tray with cups, cream and sugar. He brought it over while handing me the iPad. It read: “please have a seat.” I sat on the sofa. He set the tray on the table in front of me and made a strange sound.

“How do you make that sound with throat cancer?” I asked meekly. I added cream to my coffee to avoid meeting his eyes.

He picked up the Ipad. His hands just flew over the built-in keyboard. After he finished typing he handed the Ipad to me.

That damn bull may think he’s king of the world, but he’s also a damn big coward. If you get a whistle he’ll get out your way really fast. As for that sound you heard me make it’s my version of saying “Hey you”. I simply push my tongue against the skin of my lower jaw. You have to push the skin on the inside of your mouth outwards at the front of your lower jaw.

“That’s really good to know. I’ll get a whistle when I’m in Coboconk. That bull has messed with me for the last time.” I sipped my coffee. It was good. Then mustering up my courage, I asked, “Since you know I’m a journalist, would you mind if I interviewed you?”

He leaned forward, took the Ipad from me, and typed his answer.

I don’t want to be interviewed by a journalist, but I wouldn’t mind chatting with a neighbor. Feel free to ask me anything.”

He had put me on the spot and I positively hate when that happens. Not this time, though.

“Peter, you just put me on the spot. I’m not sure about being your neighbor. Yet. I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep Blue Cottage or sell it.” I paused to sip again, then blurted, “I’ve been suspended, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

He got out of his chair, crossed the room, and sat down beside me on the couch. He tried saying something, cursed and put his hand on my knee. Again the Ipad came into play. Again his hands flew over the keyboard. Then he handed it to me.

Tell you what. Let’s make a deal. I’ll give you an interview where you can ask me anything you like. In return, you agree to stay in Blue Cottage one week. I may need a favor. I’ll know in less than one week. Does that sound fair to you?”

I couldn’t believe my luck. I found one of the most reclusive men on the planet and he’s offering to be interviewed by me!

“Can I let my editor know about the interview?” I asked. After pausing for a few seconds he nodded his head slowly. He pointed at the iPad and I handed it to him. When he handed it back I read:

I’ll consent to your editor knowing about the interview as long as it is published in full. And any mention about my divorce will be limited to “we realized we made a mistake and divorced.”

“I better call for his consent.” I almost ripped my pants getting the phone out. When I dialed his number, it rang for a long time —he must have been screening his calls.

When he finally answered, he said, “I figured you’d call. Look, when I said indefinite suspension I meant—”

“Listen! I’ve got Peter James Christopher in front of me right now. And he’s willing to be interviewed. All you have to do is agree to publish it in full. The deal’s on the table for the next thirty seconds.”

There was nothing but aching silence from on the phone. I glanced over at Peter. His face was a mask of pain. His throat was really beginning to smart. Peter pointed at his watch and held up ten fingers.

I whispered,“What does that mean …ten seconds left?”

Finally, there was an answer. “OK, you got me. But put him on the line. I want to hear him.”

“He wants to talk to you.” I handed my phone to Peter, who looked like he going to be violently ill. Buddha started talking.

“I just wanted to say that this isn’t the way we normally conduct business. We have standards and—”

Peter cut him off. “I have throat cancer you big baboon. This could be my last interview. Do you really want it to go a competitor?”

As the ramifications finally hit Buddha, he asked Peter to hand the phone back to me. Peter held it out and croaked out the word “talk”. He winced in pain and got up to take some yellow medication. Morphine.

“We’ll honor the deal,” Buddha said, realizing he’d almost made a colossal mistake. “How bad is he Cassie?”

I turned my back on Peter and whispered into the phone, “Look chuckles. The guy’s in rough shape. He has to take Morphine. You know the phrase: “he’s a shadow of his former self”? Well, there’s so little of this guy left he’s barely got a shadow. Listen, I’ve got to go.”

Peter tapped me on the shoulder and handed me the iPad. “I’m going to bed. Morphine always makes me sleepy.” I nodded in understanding. Five minutes later, I heard his soft snoring coming from the bedroom.

Peter probably expected me to leave, but I felt responsible for his pain. I couldn’t leave him like this. I lit a fire and selected one of the many books he had on the shelves. The cozy fire and the warm blanket combined to make me sleepy and despite my best efforts to stay awake, I fell asleep on the couch.

……..and more to come!

Chapter 1 – Blue Cottage

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Cassette 1 Entry 1

I got canned yesterday. Shown the door. Fired. My god damn temper got me fired. Here’s what happened. My boss wanted me to cover a story at the zoo. I hate doing zoo stories….

“Carter! Get your scrawny ass in here.” he bellowed.

I hustled my buns into the office of my fire-breathing boss. He sat behind a rather imposing metal desk that was covered in dents. It was the color of a battleship. I had seen lots of other metal desks, all very similar, during my life but never one with so many dents in it. He had a bad temper and often took out his displeasure on the desk. As I entered his office he held up an assignment note. Buddha, his office nickname, sat behind his desk holding the note. Little did I know he was also holding my fate.

“What the hell am I holding in my hand?” he barked.

“It looks like an assignment note”.

“Good guess, but you’re wrong. It’s an order from your superior. And that’s me! Think of it as a commandment from on high. Now read aloud what it says”.

“I already know what it says”.

“Pretend I can’t find my damn reading glasses and I love to hear your melodic voice. Take a deep breath and tell me what the note says”.

There was a voice in my head telling me I was in deep doo-doo. Neck deep.

“The assignment note says to cover the polar bear story at the zoo at 2:30 PM”.

“And what time is it now?” he growled.

“It’s 3:07 PM,” I said after glancing at my watch.

He stood up, walked around his desk, and kicked the side of his desk. Out in the newsroom, a scorecard held the total number of kicks the desk got that particular day. This morning the score was 17. The card numbered 18 soon took its place.

“Then why the hell are you here!?” he roared.

“You know I hate puff pieces about the zoo. I want to do hard news. There’s a juicy scandal brewing at city hall and I just know-”.

“Really? You’re really going with that old chestnut? It sounds like something you read in an old Superman comic when you were a kid. I don’t think you grasp the seriousness of what you’ve done. Now sit down!”.

“If I’m sitting on an angle it’s because the battle-axe that owns this station just chewed my ass off. And just in case you’re wondering if she was in a good mood the answer is no! She just got a call from the mayors’ office demanding I fire you!”

“And you…”

He walked over to the front of his desk and sat on the edge which is never a good sign. Praise usually came from 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.

“Listen up. Me boss. You’re an employee. So listen up! You’ve been escorted out of city hall for the last time. They’ve rescinded your press credentials and are adamant about never ever reinstating them. And City Hall security has standing orders to detain you should you ever go back, for any reason. You can’t go back to even use the ladies room. Putting the mayor in a headlock because she wouldn’t answer your question was a piece of classic stupidity. Your reputation has poisoned two other popular venues for news. 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”.

I was hoping he’d stop. I already knew my career was pretty well over.

“Does the story stop there you ask? Not a chance. To make matters worse the story went international! Your name is in almost every newspaper, news broadcast, and radio broadcast in the western world. With pictures! You make fights in Taiwan’s parliament look tame. Now I have to send that twerp with oily hair and peach fuzz in your place. I could and should fire you. But you’re the best radio reporter I’ve seen in a long time.”

He started letting his humanity show so he closed the door to his office so those in the newsroom wouldn’t see him. Plus he wanted to keep his “meanest son of a bitch in the valley” reputation intact. He returned to his chair, leaned back, and put his hands on top of his head. Then he really surprised me. He started talking to me in soft tones in an almost fatherly manner.

“You’ve got passion, drive, and empathy. A combination that rarely comes along. In the news business, you’re what’s called a triple threat. But your god damn temper keeps getting in the way.”

“I doubt you’re aware of this but your actions have put me in a really awkward position. The owner of the station wants you fired. Today. But I’m not going to do that. You’re just too god damn good to cut loose so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to put you on indefinite suspension until you reign in whatever is pissing you off. You’re still an employee of station CKMT. I’ll square that with the owner. I’ll tell the old battle-axe you’re indispensable or something. I’m not quite 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, and anything you do write, anything at all, is the property of the station. That means if you decide to write a book the station gets a chunk of the profits. My advice to you is to get outta the city and cast out your demons. Where you go is your own god damn business, but when you come back that chip better be off your shoulder. If it’s still there your ass is grass and your career will be over. Do I make myself clear?”

“Crystal. Get out of town and get your shit together”.

“Get a box and clear out your desk before I have to call building security”.

***

When I got home I put the box on the kitchen table. After that, I walked over to the sofa and sat down. I started crying, and for a few hours, that’s all I did.

An aunt of mine left me her cottage in her will. I’ve only been there once and that was twenty years ago when I was ten. My aunts’ lawyer emailed me the instructions on how to get to Blue Cottage. So the following morning I loaded up my car with a few essentials and took off. Driving outside the city was a new experience for me so, per instructions, I headed straight for Highway 35. One thing puzzled me. Why did my aunt leave the cottage to me? Blue Cottage was located on Shadow Lake which was well inside the boundaries of the Kawartha Highlands. The lake itself wasn’t very deep. It was only about three hundred feet deep. The lake was carved out of Kawartha bedrock by a glacier during the ice age. Bedrock littered the sides of Highway 35. Some chunks were a couple stories high and looked grayish-orange in full daylight. I found driving just inches from these behemoths of bedrock very unnerving. Some of the towns, like Lindsay and Rosedale, had an almost rustic charm to them while others, like Coboconk, Norland, and Miners Bay had an air of mystery to them. As I entered Norland I saw the local A & P store on my left. Following the directions, I turned east on to Highway 45 (also known as Monck Rd.) and crossed over an old one-lane metal Bailey Bridge. It made more noise than the waterfalls just a few feet away. Once I was past the bridge the directions told me to drive for five miles till I spotted a green sign with white lettering on my right marked “Buller Road”. I turned off the road that led to Norland and drove along the dirt road that was Buller Road. There were incredibly large pastures with only a few cows in them. But where there are cows are bulls. And I soon encountered one munching on some grass in the middle of the road. And he had no intention of letting me pass till he was good and ready. After waiting a good half hour, and honking my horn a few dozen times the brute moved back into the pasture. Bossy had been blocking a sign that said “Shadow Lake Cottages”. I turned onto a one lane road. It must have rained recently as the sandy road was dark orange in spots. It was obvious the road was not well maintained as my little car bounced all over. It was only one mile to a fork in the road that held three sign posts. The signs nailed to the posts denoted who owned what cottage and which road to take. I scanned the posts looking for the name Carter. No luck. But I did find a sign that said “Blue Cottage”. I turned left in the direction of the sign. Blue Cottage was only about a hundred yards from the fork in the road but driving down that road felt like a hundred miles. I passed the Stitt’s driveway then the Patterson’s. Those names I remembered. Then came a surprise. The Dore family should have been next but I guess they sold to the Christopher family for they were next. But right after those driveways was the driveway to Blue Cottage. I remembered there was a steep incline with a dilapidated old shed at the top. I really don’t know why, but the old shed, which should have fallen apart since I saw it last, was still standing. Just past the shed was where a mammoth septic tank was buried. The area looked like a small cemetery. I parked the car close to the cottage. I climbed on top of Canadian shield bedrock and saw the platform that held the tent I slept in when I was a kid. During my first and only visit, I wanted to sleep in a tent. My aunt convinced my mother that I could sleep in the tent but assured her I wouldn’t be there all night. Mosquitoes buzzed like jets and made getting any sleep next to impossible. I scrambled off the bedrock and on to the porch that led to the front door. The door was actually at the side of the cottage. After inserting and turning the key I turned the door handle and pushed the door open. It had been five years since my aunt passed away and Blue Cottage became my property. When I learned I now had a cottage I contemplated selling it. The cottage had been a bit of a money pit for my aunt, and I just didn’t have the money to maintain it. For some reason, one I couldn’t fathom, I felt like an intruder. And a little silly one too. Mostly because I was walking through something I owned. The kitchen looked dated and was laid out in a manner I wouldn’t have chosen. I could keep it as is or sell the cottage. The kitchen had very little dust in it considering this was the first time in five years anybody had been in it. As I walked over to the couch the living room area felt much smaller to me. Again there was very little dust. The fireplace still looked enormous to me. The mantle held a number of books which I could easily get to. When I was ten I always had to get a chair to stand on. Besides the books were a couple of topographical maps of the area and beside them was a note from our family lawyer:

Dear Cassandra,

Welcome to Blue Cottage! Your aunt left a VHS tape for you to watch. The TV still works and is connected to an old Video Cassette Recorder. In accordance with her wishes, I’m to ask you to watch it first before making any changes. Afterward, you’re free to move in or sell the cottage should you see fit. If you do I hope you’ll tell me so I could help you with the sale.

Sincerely

Jason Langtree

The note was dated one year after my aunt passed away. I went over to the TV and turned it on. Then I turned on the power button on the VCR. Power surged through its insides for the first time in five years. I picked up a video cassette beside the TV marked “For Cassie” and inserted the cassette. I sat on the couch. After a few moments, an image appeared on the TV screen. It was my aunt.

Welcome back to Blue Cottage Cassie. Since you’re watching this tape it’s safe to assume a number of things. 1) That blasted ulcer got me. And 2) You’re now the owner of Blue Cottage. You don’t have to worry about dealing with the septic tank. I had it inspected and drained last year. So it’s good for another twenty years. Mr. Webb still lives next door. And yes, he’s still mowing the rocks. That was an interesting and entertaining observation you made about him. Out of the mouth of babes. The Dore family sold to a couple called Christopher. The Mrs. made tracks shortly after they bought the cottage. The rumor mill has says it had to do with an illness in the family. So Mr. Christopher is there all by himself. Go over and introduce yourself. He doesn’t bite.”

“Mr. Patterson still has that speedboat he built when you were a child. Its that sleek white boat with a 1964 Cadillac engine in it. He calls it “The Old Carp Chaser”. He never got the engine going properly and after going a day or so the engine would blow. Whenever that happened I usually had to tow him in with my Johnson five and a half horsepower boat. That engine is from 1956 but is the envy of most boat owners. Most engines made today are made from lightweight materials and constantly need repair. I usually take the engine into town once at the beginning of the season for a checkup. That job is now yours. The guy you want to look after the engine is Eric the pirate. Eric got the nickname because of the prices he charged. Eric is now retired and helps out at the hardware store in Coboconk. His son Eric Jr. runs the family business. He’s single so if you use some of your womanly charms on him I’m sure you’ll be able to keep the prices in line. Eric Jr. isn’t as sharp as his dad when it comes to older engines and sometimes calls in his dad for a consultation. So if a repair price is outrageous that’s probably the reason. The last time you were here you didn’t need a license to drive a boat. Now you do. The hardware store in Coboconk will have all the info you need to get a license.

Gold Rock is the name of the place where you can get gas for the engine. There is a small grocery store there too. If they still have them try a Blackball. They’re Licorice. They taste great but make your tongue as black as pitch. I marked where Gold Rock is on one of the maps I keep on the mantle. Gold Rock is a godsend if you only need a few things. And its a lot cheaper than going into Norland or Coboconk with your car. One last thing. Mr. Christopher’s full name is Peter James Christopher. I suspect that name will mean something to you. Sure surprised the hell out of me when I found out. No sign of the Mrs. as of yesterday so he may be back on the market.

I suppose you’re wondering why I wanted you to have to have Blue Cottage. The first time you came up here you showed a special appreciation for the cottage. You were like me. You were able to see past what this place was, and what it could be. It brought me many years of enjoyment and I hope it does the same for you. It was a place to escape to, to think about your troubles, to relax. City life is too frantic. It’s more laid back here. Instead of being assaulted by everyday life you can live one day at a time up here. When I had the cottage built I had it winterized too. So if you want to come up here in the winter you can. But you should know that you’ll need a Ski-Doo for that. I had a Ski-Doo for a few years and made the beach into an area where I could park it. There is a small path near the property line that leads to the beach. But you’ll have to decide if you want to tangle with Blue Cottage in the winter. One other thing. Blue Cottage isn’t simply a place to go to. It’s an entity all to itself. Learn from it as I have. It’ll teach you things about living, teach you things you didn’t know, and refine aspects of your life you thought you already knew. Gotta go Cassie. Stop by for a chat. You’ll know where I am. See ya”.

With that, the tape came to an end. And so did my aunt apparently. She passed away a few days after making this tape. Her lawyer, Mr. Langtree, was against her making a taped will. A taped will could be monkeyed with. And portions of it could degrade over time and the true meaning of someone’s wishes might never be fully understood. After a real battle, they eventually came to a compromise. The will portion would be written, and the part for me would be taped. I’m glad she insisted on taping my portion. With both of my parents gone she was the only family I had left. But with a videotape, I can watch her any time I want.

******

There was something about Blue Cottage that attracted me to it. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s something like magnetism. I can’t put a name to it but something wanted me to be there, and to a certain degree I needed to be there.

I did a quick dusting. Dust and I are old enemies. I just can’t stand it. Afterward, I found myself walking outside checking out my new digs, past the picnic table, and to the far side of the guest house. During my walk, I encountered a rather unique planter my aunt told me about. It was an old wooden boat, built sometime in the thirties. According to her, she found it in the guest house when she first bought the property. It was useless as a boat as it had far too many holes in it. She hauled it to its current resting place and gave her the name “S.S.”. My aunt told me when I was a little girl the name stood for “She Sinks”. I walked along the driveway, and over the lawn. I wanted to check out my new neighbors. But I was a reporter first. And a good reporter researches any potential story. I didn’t have access to the vast computerized library of the station. So I had to do things differently. I got my trusty old laptop out and started to dig. Again, curiosity got the better of me and I tried to see if my password would still work. I burrowed into the vast computer network of CKMT. But I was stopped dead in my tracks. As soon as I logged in with my name and password a great big “x” appeared on the screen. A message appeared. “The owner of this password is on indefinite suspension”. Then a personal message just for me appeared. “Remember, I said “no perks”. That includes computer access. Cool your jets and relax Cassie.” Nuts.  The screen then went blank. Buddha would probably be notified by the geeks in IT that I tried to break in. Wikipedia told me precious little about the area and the people. The next day I got in the car and drove into town to the greatest source of gossip any town can have: the grocery store. In this case, it would the A & P in Norland.