Thursday, May 19, 2022

Dilby, a Short, Short Story

 dontravis.com blog post #550

Image courtesy of en.bideax.info



Thanks to Don Morgan for last week’s guest post. Good luck with your novel, Miasma, Don.

 

This week, a short story that’s too long for flash fiction and too short for a genuine short story. Hope you like it.

 

****

DILBY

It promised to be a lazy Sunday afternoon with high, thin clouds cutting the worst of the sun’s heat, until I changed from church duds to overalls and hauled out the toolbox to tackle my ’59 Ford Galaxie coupe. Needed a minor tune-up, and now was as good as ever. Except, I wish I hadn’t eaten that extra piece of fried chicken from dinner. Or maybe it was the second gob of peach cobbler. But whatever it was, it sure made leaning over the fender to reach the engine compartment uncomfortable.

I’d probably been at it for an hour before I glanced up to see a young fella staggering down the street, his left arm hanging straight down in an unnatural sort of way. Hurt, he was. That was plain.

“Pa,” I yelled as I swiped my hands on a rag, “Come runnin’!”

“What is it?” my dad said, barreling out the front door in a rush.

I nodded to where the stranger stood at the gate. He was younger’n me, and I’m nineteen. His white shirt was smeared with blood, as was his hair.

“You need help, young fellow?” my dad called. Folks considered him a standoffish kinda guy, but I knew that wasn’t the case. If somebody needed help, he’d break his back to lend a hand, and it looked like this fella needed help.

“Wreck,” the kid said in a voice that didn’t have any wind behind it.

I stood at my old man’s side. “What’s the matter with him?”

“Probably in shock.” My dad lifted his voice. “What’s your name, son?”

“Dilby.” Just a cold echo of a word.

“You hurt? You need help?”

The kid looked back down the road. “My mother… sister. Deer ran in front. Car crashed. Turned over. They need help.”

“Where?”

Dilby nodded south down the road. “Where the bridge crosses the stream.”

My dad nodded at me. “Collin’s Branch.” He yelled over his shoulder. “Mama, call the sheriff and tell him there’s a bad wreck at Collin’s Branch where it crosses the highway. Need ambulance.”

He turned back to the figure swaying before our gate. “Son… Dilby, you need help. Come on and let us fix you up.”

The youth backed into the highway and turned south. “Mother. Sister. Need help.”

“So do you, son. Come let….”

He gave up as Dilby staggered on down the road. “We gotta catch him. We’ll use your car—”

“It’s all torn apart. We’ll have to use yours.”

“Damnation,” he grunted. “Go get the biggest pry bar you can find in the garage. If that car rolled, might have to pry them out. I gotta put air in the back tire before I can move the truck.”

I rummaged around in the barn and came up with two sizeable levers, one for each of us. Also grabbed the first aid kit we keep out there, although it was only good for treating cuts and bruises, not car wrecks. Still….

Eventually, we maneuvered around my Ford in the driveway and turned out onto the highway.

“Damn!” Dad exclaimed. “Where’d the kid go?”

“Dunno. Maybe he took off running.”

“If he did, he won’t get far. Keep an eye on the barrow ditch in case he fell. He looked to be on his last legs to me.”

“Yeah,” I agreed.

But as the bridge approached, there was no sign of Dilby. As soon as we saw the deep gouges in the earth where the car had left the highway, we forgot about finding the kid and baled out to go help the two he’d said were trapped in the car.

The blue Dodge four-door we found at the bottom of the creek bank, resting halfway in the water, had rolled at least twice and came to rest right-side-up. The roof was crushed in, so it was obvious we’d need the pry bars we’d brought. I reached the wrecked car first.

“A woman, Dad. I don’t know if she’s alive or—” I about jumped outa my skin when she groaned and moved.”

“Check the other side for the girl,” Dad said, putting the bigger of the two levers to the crumpled door.

I went around the front of the car and waded cold creek water to reach the passenger’s side. Sure enough, there was a girl passed out in the seat with a bloody gash on her forehead. Thank goodness she’d been strapped in by a seat belt. Lucky they all were, I guess. Else they’d have been toast.

I felt the girl’s wrist and found a strong pulse, so Dad had me help him wrestle with the car door. We’d just gotten it open when I heard sirens.

“My son… my girl?’ a weak voice asked. It took me a second to figure out it was the woman speaking. “Are… are they all right?”

“Daughter’s unconscious, but Daryl… that’s my boy… he says she has a strong pulse.”

“My son?”

“He’s the one who came got us. She’s around somewhere. Now you just lay back and try to relax. We don’t dare move you until the medics get here, and they’re pulling up now.”

We acknowledged the sheriff when he half slid down the incline. Thirty seconds later, the place was swarming with deputies and paramedics. We backed away to let them do their thing, watching as they used boards to slide the woman and the girl out of the car. From the talk going back and forth among the medics and the deputies, we gathered the injuries were nothing to sneeze at but not life threatening.

The sheriff stopped beside us to watch as they were loaded into an ambulance.

“Lucky you guys chanced on them. You know what happened?”

“Deer ran across the road,” I said.

Sheriff Denton glanced back up the road toward our house at the edge of town. “You see it from there?”

“Naw,” Dad said. “We wouldn’t a known nothing about it if the kid hadn’t come asking for help.”

“Kid? What kid?”

“Dilby,” he said his name was,” I volunteered. “He was the son. Kid about seventeen-eighteen.”

“He came to your house and knocked on your door?

“No. I was in the driveway working on my car when I saw him staggering up the road. I called my dad, and he had Mom call you while we got in the truck and drove down to where Dilby said it happened.”

“He told you a deer ran across the road?”

I nodded. “Yeah, why?”

“And he rode back with you to the wreck?”

“No,” my dad said. “Funny thing, we tried to get him to come in and let us treat his wounds, but he ran off to his mom and sister.”

“Wilbur,” the sheriff said to my dad. “Come here.”

He led us a short distance upstream to where two EMTs hovered over something. My gut fell away when they stood. That kid… Dilby… lay on the creek bank.

“That’s him! That’s Dilby,” I gasped. “He’s the kid who came and told us his mom and sister were hurt.”

Sam Jenkins, one of the two EMTs, turned and looked me square in the eye. “This kid didn’t walk anywhere. He was dead the minute he got thrown from the car. Neck’s broken. One knee’s shattered. Arm’s broken. I’m willing to be he’s the only one in the car who wasn’t wearing a seat belt. And he paid for it.”

I watched the blood drain out of my father’s face. I’m not sure what he saw looking at me, but without a word from either of us, we walked straight to Dad’s truck, crawled in, and drove home. I expected to have nightmares that night.

But I didn’t. I merely saw Dilby standing in front of the house nodding his thanks.

*****

 I must have been in a kooky frame of mind when I wrote this. Nonetheless, I hope you got a modicum of pleasure from reading it.

 Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

MIASMA, a Guest Post by Donald T. Morgan

dontravis.com blog post #549

 Image courtesy of Clipart Library

 


Several readers have asked me the status of Donald T. Morgan’s upcoming book, MIASMA. He tells me the book is complete now, and he’s beginning to look for a publisher. That prompted a discussion of another Guest Post. From previous guest posts, you may recall this is the story of a 10-year-old Black girl growing up in 1940’s Jim Crow Oklahoma. It deals with how an unexpected friendship between the girl and an elderly white man who lives on the hill on the way to downtown Horseshoe Bend begins to change the girl’s life. Miasma loves to sing, and he’s drawn to her voice as she walks past on the way to the post office every few days.

 The following picks up the book at the beginning of Chapter 4. Mista Ace (as she calls Horace Parsley) has located the Bantu forbear of Miasma’s in genealogy records and explained to her that he was brought as a slave by his Cherokee owner over the Trail of Tears when Andrew Jackson expelled the Five Civilized Tribes from east of the Mississippi River. Miasma has just related what she learned to her mother, Willa.

****

MIASMA, a Novel

By Donald T Morgan

 “Why for you askin’ all these questions?”

“Mista Ace knows lots about things back then. He figures grandpa’s name was Bakari, not Baker. Says he likely took his master’s name when he got free.”

“Mista Ace, huh? That White man sure taken a lotta interest in a little Colored girl. I asked Bessie about him, and she says he’s harmless. Still, y’all be careful ’round him now. Hear?”

“Yes’um.”

It got quiet in the house, making Miasma think her mother was cogitating on something. A small twister outside the window stirred up dirt and leaves in the yard. Dust devil they called it. Old Miz Carpole down the street claimed it was witches stirring up trouble. Course, some a the kids figured she was one.

Her mama cupped Miasma’s chin. “That Bakari… Josiah Elder weren’t your grandfather. He was a coupla grandpas before that.”

“If he was named Elder, how come we’re Elderberrys?”

“Dunno, child. Somebody got it mixed up. But Dunbar’s grandma’s name was Berry. Hilda Berry. She was a Chickasaw lady.” She glanced at the photograph on the side table. “But your daddy’s name was Elderberry, sure enough.”

Miasma screwed up her nose. “Chickasaw, I thought we was Cherokee.”

“That old slave, he married up with a Cherokee woman right enough, but your daddy’s grandma was Chickasaw. Guess y’all got two kinda Indians in you. Now go wash up for dinner. Miz Willis give me her leftovers from yesterday. We got us some fried chicken and brown gravy tonight.”

Miasma’s stomach growled in anticipation as she scurried down to the privy before washing up. Things couldn’t be better. Fried chicken tonight and next Sunday she was gonna sing her first solo in church. Maybe she shoulda mentioned that to Mista Ace.

****

But it was a long way until Sunday. Her mother decided on some spring housecleaning, and put Miasma to work. They hauled their mattresses outside for a good sunning, but had to rush them back indoors when a rain squall blew in. Every pot and pan had to be dragged out and washed, even if they’d just been washed the day before. They even scrubbed down the walls, losing some more ugly wallpaper when they done it.

Right in the middle of all this work, a ripple of excitement swept Horseshoe Bend, including Colored Town, as a scary, remote war came home to everybody. All the radio stations talked about a big invasion of something they called the beaches of Normandy. That was something Miasma would have to look up in the Geographic as soon as she got a chance. As she and her mother cleaned, they listened to the radio. Names they’d only heard of before became real people as William L. Shirer and Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith reported on a desperate battle halfway around the world

Miasma knew Tizzie was worried because her daddy had been over in England where the invasion set out from. Then came stories about Omaha Beach, a horrible place where American soldiers took a beating and got killed left and right. After a while, Miasma tried to blot out the deep somber voices of the invisible men on the radio and concentrate on giving the place the best cleaning it ever had, helped along by a song or two. Tizzie came around a couple of times—sometimes bubbly and sometimes in tears over not knowing what was happening to her daddy—but no matter her mood, she scooted right back down the street when she found the cleaning was still going on.

Toward the end of the week, everything they owned had been cleaned, dried, and ironed. And Miasma figured she’d done more’n her share because Mama had gone to work at Miz Willis’s every one of those days.

Friday, Miasma headed for the post office where everybody was talking about the invasion, some claiming it was foolishness to attack the invincible Germans on their own ground, others figuring this was the beginning of the end for those dirty Nazis. As she crossed Main Street, it seemed like the town was a little quieter than usual.

On the return trip—with the mail in her satchel—she spied Mista Ace on his front porch and walked up to the fence without him calling her over.

“Good afternoon, Miasma, what a pleasant surprise. I wondered what happened. I’ve missed your singing.”

“Me and Mama been housecleaning.” She shook the book bag he’d given her. “Whole week’s worth of mail.”

“Now, Miasma—” he started.

“I know. It’s Mama and me… uh, I.”

“We’re all victims of habit. How about a deal? When you’re in your environment, you speak that language. When you’re talking to me, speak my language. Does that make sense?”

“You mean talk like White folks?”

He looked startled. “Well, yes, I guess I do. Does that bother you?”

“No, sir. You’re saying when I’m with you, I talk like my teacher wants me to. When I’m home, I talk like everybody else.”

“Exactly. Do we have a deal?”

“I suppose. But it seems kinda one-sided. Where do you go to talk different?”

He laughed. “You’ve got me there. It is lopsided, like most things in this world.”

“Anyway,” she said. “I wanted to tell you I’m singing a solo in church on Sunday, in case you wanna listen.”

“I’ll surely do that, although usually all I hear is the entire choir. But I’ll put an ear to the wind.”

“Can I ask you something?”

Yes, you may ask me anything you want.”

“This big invasion they’re talking about. You know, on the radio?”

“You mean the D-Day Invasion?”

“Yes, sir, that’s the one I mean.”

“What about it, child?”

“I hear some folks say it’s a good thing, and I hear others say it’s foolishness.”

He bit his lower lip for a moment. “I think it’s the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. There’s lots of fighting with lots of blood yet to come, but I think we can see the writing on the wall. That’s just my opinion, mind you.”

“Yessir, but I set great store by what you think. The end. You mean like next week?”

“Oh no. We have to fight our way clear across Europe over rivers and mountains. But I don’t believe they can throw us back into the sea. We’ve got a foothold and won’t be dislodged.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Can you imagine the suffering of the people in those countries?”

“You mean the French people?”

“I mean everyone in Europe.”

“Even the Germans?” she asked.

“Yes, even the Germans.”

Miasma blinked. “But they’re the bad people.”

“Some of them are. A lot of them are. But most are folks like you and me who only want to be left alone to live their lives. They’ve just simply followed the wrong leaders.”

Miasma walked on down the hill toward home deep in thought. That was the first time she’d ever thought of German mamas and papas over there making do the best they could while their men were off fighting. Besides that, they had all those bombs falling down on their heads.

*****

 Interesting, we are seeing the little girl’s interests grow in scope as Misa Ace expands her horizon beyond the here and now. Good luck with the book, Don.

 Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 

Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Clouds, a Repost

 dontravis.com blog post #548

 Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons

 


I ran into my bud Mark Wildyr the other day, and we somehow ended up discussing our webs sites. We both post on the same day (and time), at 6:00 a.m. on Thursdays, although while I post each week, he plays lazy and posts only on the first and third Thursdays. But the point of this is that he confessed to reposting this Thursday, as had I. He also indicated the story he chose to repost was darker than usual.

 

Low and behold, I’m reposting this week as well, and I think you’ll agree this one is also dark. Is it a case of “great minds run….” Or is it that we’re two goof balls out of the same package?

****

            CLOUDS

 It came in a cloud a year ago this past January, although I could not tell if it was a billow of vapor or a clouding of my mind. Whatever the manner of arrival, It remained to bedevil me. I cast back into my long-lost youth to discern the origins but found nothing. My parents, uncomplicated farm folk, had demonstrated no awareness. Nor did my sister, now a respected professor of Medieval French literature at a major university.

Seeking to understand brought its own form of headache. I shivered as if cold, which I was not. Fever touched my brow, but I did not suffer the ague. My hands trembled without aid of tremens. The me I knew, became the increasingly stranger me I did not want to know as the mists—now darkish gray—descended, unbidden, unwanted. I fought through a darkness tantalizingly sprinkled with shards of light to what I knew lay at the center. The vision It brought.

The haze grew thinner, the light stronger as I struggled through the masking mist toward a scene as yet unmanifested. I loathed these revealings, all too often harbingers of disaster.

As the roiling strands of vapor parted, my head pounded as I saw my neighbor Ben sprawled awkwardly across the floor in his own kitchen, his body and clothing smeared like a scarlet-rich palette had exploded. I drew a breath. This was not an oily hue but mortal blood. One sightless blue eye was broken, as if cleft by the meat cleaver lying on the floor, handle and blade smudged with drying gore. A pungent, unpleasant odor invaded my reverie.

Horrified, I shrank back into the protecting folds of dirty fog, but they pressed me forward to kneel beside my friend and fruitlessly seek signs of life. Yielding to my fondness for the young man, I cradled his lifeless body to my breast and muttered incantations of sorrow. He gave offense by ignoring me, although the rational me recognized it as no fault of his own.

I eased his inert frame—alive and vital and handsome only hours ago—back onto the linoleum and gained my feet to take out my phone and dial 9-1-1, providing my name and address to the dispassionate voice on the other end of the line—a phrase no longer appropriate as there was no “line” in this age of unfathomable electronics.

Done here, I gathered my now welcome cloud around me and returned to my corporeal self back across the street.

Seconds later—or perhaps minutes or hours later—the mournful alarm of sirens shredded the neighborhood calm as I huddled in my easy chair, an unread a book in my hands. Reading was not appropriate while my young friend lay butchered nearby. But perhaps my horrible dream would not prove reality, as was sometimes the case.

Exhausted, I did not peek through the curtains as my neighbors most certainly did, seeking titillation from the swarm of police in this staid and sedate neighborhood. Ah, but my mind wanders. Be still and wait.

I have no idea how long before the knock, but I started like a mouse belled by a cat when it came. My legs managed to hold my suddenly heavy bulk as I shuffled to the door for affirmation of my fears.

“Mr. Fisk?” a blunt faced man standing on my porch asked. I nodded mutely as his piercing eyes raked me. “Good morning, sir. I’m Detective Charles Grant.” He flashed a shield in my face.

“Come in, Detective,” I invited, backing away from the door.

He seemed cautious, but accepted my invitation, although he paused until I turned away and returned to my favorite recliner. Another man followed him into the room. The second man was younger and much more attractive, putting me in mind of Ben. “Did… did you find him?” I asked.

“Yes, sir. We found him. Dead in his kitchen.”

“Murdered,” I mumbled… a question sans question.

“Exactly. Hacked with a meat cleaver. Probably his own.”

“Poor Ben. He was a nice man.”

“What was your relationship with him?”

“Neighbor. Friend.”

“Is that all?” the second, unnamed man asked, his mellow baritone catching my ear.

I smiled at him. “He moved in about two years ago, and we became neighbors. Shout hello across the street. Meet in the middle of the pavement to share our day.”

“Nothing more than that?” Detective Grant’s voice was an intrusion. I preferred dealing with the other man.

“What else could there be?”

“Before we get into that, how did you know he was murdered?”

“I saw him.”

“Him who? The murderer?”

“No, I saw Ben lying on the floor.”

“Let me get this straight. You saw him on the floor of his kitchen?”

“Not exactly. You see, I have these visions.”

Grant’s eyebrows reached for the moon. “You saw a vision of him being killed?”

I shook my head, eyes locked onto those thick, dark eyebrows. Would they dance like that again? “Yes, I occasionally see things.”

“Before they happen?” the younger policeman asked.

“Sadly, no. All my reveries come after the event.”

“Did you go over to your neighbor’s house after your… vision?”

I shook my head. “No.”

The police detective’s sudden glare raised the hair on my arms. “Then why are you covered in blood? Most likely his blood.”

My chin dropped in astonishment as I held my hands before me. Red-streaked. Bloody! “I-I don’t know.”

“Are those bloody fingerprints on the meat cleaver gonna turn out to be yours?”

“How… how could they be?”

His voice dropped into a snarl. “You left them when you hacked your neighbor to death. Get up and turn around.”

I expected the younger policeman, the nicer one, to speak up, but he didn’t.

“You’re under arrest for the murder of Benjamin Pitman. You have the right—”

“Why would I do that?”

“I checked the record. He lodged a complaint about you. You propositioned him, but when he refused, you wouldn’t let it go. He got a restraining order against you.”

“For all the good that did,” the formerly nice officer said.

As Detective Grant fixed the manacles around my wrists, the cloud lifted, vanishing as quickly as it arrived. And I saw things as they were.

It had a name now.

Madness.

 *****

I'll ask the same question I asked two years ago. Does writing about madness make me mad? You tell me. 

Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Portrait of Miss Emmalee, A 5-Part Serial – Part 5

dontravis.com blog post #547

 Image courtesy of Fixthephoto.com

 



What can some woman named Hilda Winemaker, who lives in the far corner of the state, tell Richie about his mom and Miss Emmalee? Can she confirm what he suspects or lead him somewhere else? Here’s the conclusion to the story. Enjoy.

 

****

                                                      PORTRAIT OF MISS EMMALEE

 Hilda Winemaker reminded me of Miss Emmalee. Not in looks, but in personality. She was as elegant as her childhood friend. She welcomed me into her home and led me to a sunny breakfast nook where a light lunch was already laid out. She chatted like we were old friends as we ate, and I came to understand the friendship that had existed between Hilda and Emmalee. But life took them on different paths, and while they remained in touch, the companionship was lost.

Once the dishes were cleared away, we sat with coffee and a light sherbet for dessert. She leveled a green-eyed stare at me and asked what I wanted to know.

“It must be of some importance to you to bring you all the way up to Tulsa to meet an old woman.”

I smiled at the thought. “I’d hardly call you that, ma’am.”

“If you don’t start calling me Hilda, you can clear out of my house.”

“Okay, Hilda. First, I have to tell you, I was estranged from my family for several years.”

“I know that. Tossed out on your ear by your father at seventeen, I believe it was.”

My ears flamed. “Yes, ma’am. And if you know that, you likely know the reason why, as well.”

“Yes. Your father was a narrow-minded bigot. He didn’t believe you had a right to choose your own direction.”

“Delicately put. He couldn’t stand a pansy in his life. At the time, I recall my mother said something about violating a contract. I asked about it, and she said the unwritten contract between parents and a child.”

“Not exactly forthright, I’d say. But understandable.”

“Can I be blunt, Hilda?”

“We won’t get anywhere if you don’t.”

“I’ve run across things that have raised some questions in my mind about… well, frankly, about my mother and Miss Emmalee.”

Hilda’s laugh was like silver striking crystal. “Given your own life choices, I can see where your mind led you. But let me assure you, the thing that bound those two women together was not a matter of the flesh. Well, indirectly, I suppose it was, but not in the way you’re thinking.”

She paused and left me wondering if I was going to have to pry it out of her question by question.

The woman leaned back in her chair and relaxed, making me realize how tense I was. Finally, she asked a question. “Where were you born, Richie?”

“In Sidney.”

“No, you weren’t. You were born here in Tulsa.”

“But—”

“Hush now, and let me tell you a story. Many years ago, Emmalee Vanderport and I ran around everywhere together. Everyone considers us prim and proper now, but that wasn’t always the case. For a time, we were rounders. There was a third girl… woman to our group. She was from another part of the state, but we’d met her at college and kept in touch afterward. That was your mom. She was married and a bit more sober and considerably less affluent than we were, but she was lively and likeable, and pleasant to be around. So when it happened, she was naturally the one Emmalee turned to.”

“When what happened?”

“When you happened.”

I shook my head. “I… I don’t understand.”

“Let me tell you my story, and you will. Both your mother and Emmalee are dead and gone, so you should know the facts. Emmalee’s father was a doting father, indulged her shamelessly, but he was very strict about certain things. And one of those things was having a child out of wedlock. Emmalee got pregnant by a young man she met in school when he visited Sidney. To see her, I think. She was besotted by him beyond all reason. Emmalee had a good head on her shoulders except when it came to… well, let’s just call him John.

Hilda took a sip of her lukewarm coffee. “She surrendered to him one night in the firm expectation he was interested in marriage. It was only afterward that she learned he was already affianced to a girl from Virginia. In fact, they wed shortly thereafter. Your real father never knew that she had his child.

“When Emmalee learned she was expecting, she came to me up here in Tulsa. Confessing her condition to her father was impossible. She knew exactly what he would do. He’d find out who’d compromised his precious daughter and gone after the culprit. Then he’d do what your supposed father did to you. Throw her out. Emmalee was a strong woman, but not that strong. While the rest of the world thought Emmalee Vanderport was touring the world, she was hiding out up here in Tulsa with me.”

Hilda toyed with her sherbet spoon. “It was my idea to contact your mother. We knew and trusted her character, but we didn’t know the man she married. He had to be involved, of course, and agreed once he learned Emmalee intended to give you an inheritance the only way she could. Her grandmother had left her a trust and she transferred it over to your mother. Fortunately, she was wise enough to put everything in your mother’s name.”

I nodded. “Forever earning his enmity.”

She gave a wan smile. “He was resentful because Mary, the woman you called mother, wouldn’t take anything out of the trust except a modest monthly income. The money was for you. He wanted to live the lifestyle, and he took his revenge when he threw you out of the house at the first opportunity.” Hilda met my gaze squarely. “Emmalee did not intend to cause you troubles, but she did her best to ameliorate things. She—”

“She paid for my room and saw to it that I had a job.”

“She also expected your mother—well, the woman you called mother—would be able to overcome her husband’s animosity. You took care of things yourself, when you volunteered in the army as soon as you graduated high school.” She smiled. “And you’ve turned out very well. Very well, indeed.”

Except that I was gay—maybe because of the bastard of a father they’d chosen for me—and went without a family for a few years, but I didn’t say that. “Why didn’t they tell me any of this?”

“Emmalee swore everyone to secrecy. There were only two provision she put in the trust. One was that Mary and your so-called father had to move to Sidney so Emmalee could watch you grow up, and the other was that you were never to know about your real parentage.”

“So that’s the contract they referred to the day he tossed me out on my ear. He didn’t break it by throwing me out, but he could have by telling me about the deal.”

“Exactly. But now that you know, what are you going to do?”

“Nothing.”

“You aren’t going to violate her privacy?”

“I wouldn’t do that to my mom… either of them.”

“Wonderful.”

****

I thought hard on the drive back to Sidney. Now that I knew, I understood Miss Emmalee’s frown. Mother’s frown. It must have plucked her heartstrings every time she saw me. I regretted that I hadn’t been able to show her more of the real me, but she saw to it that I couldn’t. Well, I’d solved the puzzle. And yet, there were still only two things important to me. Cars and Jorge. Not even a million and a half smackers could eclipse either of them. But they might enhance them. I’d figure that out later.

****

No wonder Miss Emmalee kept an eye on Richie in his teen years. She was actually his mother. But tell me something. Do you think Miss Emmalee was a strong woman? Wouldn’t a strong mother have revealed herself, at least, after her father died. But we all do things in our own way, don’t we? Thanks for hanging with me through five installments.

Next week, we’ll try something different.

Until then.

Stay safe and stay strong.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

My personal links:

Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Portrait of Miss Emmalee, A 5-Part Serial – Part 4

 dontravis.com blog post #546

 Image courtesy of Fixthephoto.com

 



Is Richie getting to the bottom of the puzzle well? Has he discovered his mother and Miss Emmalee shared a physical relationship? Explained his dad’s hostility to the Vanderports, doesn’t it? But he has t dig deeper. Make sure he’s on the right track. That and pay attention to the intriguing Jorge.

 

****

                                                         PORTRAIT OF MISS EMMALEE

One evening, Jorge came over, and we settled on the couch with cold beers. He brought me up to date on happenings at the shop, and then we got down to the real purpose of the visit. I had his shirt off and his pants halfway down his thighs when he suddenly rebelled.

“I can’t do it, Richie-O,” he exclaimed.

Startled, I sat up, still halfway addled by the expanse of brown flesh and sinewy muscles before my eyes. “Can’t do what?”

He grabbed for his pants and hauled them up. Then he covered his nipples with his discarded shirt. “This, man. Not with her staring at us.”

I glanced around. “What’re you talking about. There’s nobody here but you and me.”

He lifted an arm in the direction of the fireplace. “Her, man. She watching us. She frowning.”

I laughed. “There’s a picture of my mother over on the piano. That never bothered you before.”

“She not watching us. This one, she watchin’, man.”

I knew Jorge was seriously disturbed when his English went fractured. “Okay, she can’t see us in the bedroom.”

“Uh-uh. She already seen. She know… man.”

“Jorge, it’s a picture. Just a painted picture.”

He drew on his shirt. “Don’ care. We go my place, okay?”

We did, and he was as loving and demanding and wonderful as ever. A rather remarkable night, actually.

****

Jorge’s reaction to Miss Emmalee’s portrait served to further fan the flames of my curiosity. I was blown away by the fact that I really knew so little about a woman who’d been a fixture in my hometown until I realized that was true of so many of us. Except for our own family, our own peers, we usually know only the public faces of others in our lives.

Foremost in my mind was my suspicion of a relationship between my mother and Miss Emmalee. I didn’t actually believe it… but then I didn’t disbelieve it, either. Other things began to seep out of my unconscious into the light of day. Miss Emmalee had attended my mother’s funeral and seemed to be a bit emotional at the church. My dad’s poorly hidden animosity toward the Vanderports. Another thought sent me looking through my family’s financial records. I knew my dad had been an insurance salesman, a successful one given the standard of living the family enjoyed. Yet, I recalled something about some outside income.

My mom had taken ill and died rather quickly, and we hadn’t had an opportunity to talk about… well, final arrangements. I was a signatory on Mom’s bank accounts, so I paid for her service out of her bank account, and recouped the money later when her life insurance proceeds came. Now, I looked deeper and found what I vaguely remembered. Old records showed a “trust” income of one thousand dollars a month from something called the “Orchard Trust.” What the hell was that? My own records showed the monthly deposit had switched from Mom’s account to mine upon her death. The fact my curiosity hadn’t been ticked showed just how unworldly I was. Nothing meant much to me except cars and Jorge.

My banker referred me to my dad’s lawyer. A day later, I sat in Jason Brown’s office and awaited an explanation. Actually, Jason was a peer of mine. His father had been my father’s attorney, but had since gone the way of my dad.

He reviewed the file he had before him for a few minutes, and then lifted his eyes to meet mine. “The trust was set up almost twenty-nine years ago, Richie-O. Original amount was one and a half million smackers. Never been touched except for the monthly stipend, so it’s grown a tad over all these years.”

My head spun. “One and a half million? What was the original source of the funds?”

“Dunno. I’d have to go back into the tombs to find those old banking records. I can tell you it was a lump sum payment. Actually, the payments have been to your mother with you as the successor beneficiary should something happen to her. You didn’t know about this?”

“Nope. What am I allowed to do with the funds?”

He consulted the file again. “Anything.”

“Huh?”

“You can let it go on as it is or take the whole thing at one chunk. Cash out and terminate the trust, if you want.”

“Who’s the trustee?”

He went round-eyed. “Me, I guess. Although my secretary handles lots of thing for me that Dad used to take care of. Are you thinking of doing something with it?”

“I don’t know. Can you make a copy of the papers for me? I’d also like to know the source of the original funds.”

“Sure. Take a little digging, but can probably figure it out.”

I left Jason’s office in a daze, but I had one thought firmly fixed in my mind. That money was Vanderport money. Had to be. Nobody else in town had that kind of wealth. It sure didn’t come from my mom’s family. Her folks had been dirt farmers. Not Dad’s, either. His parents had worked for a living all their lives. Furthermore, if it came from his side, he’d never have put it in a trust for mom. He’d have driven a Cadillac instead of a Ford. Eaten steak instead of ground beef. I sighed. My suspicions about Mom and Miss Emmalee seemed to be the only answer. But why would Miss Emmalee set up a trust for my mom? Even if they were lovers, that seemed a bit over the top. As much as I loved Jorge, I wouldn’t set up a trust for him like that. I’d give him the shirt off my back if he were in a bind, but set up a trust? No way.

With my mind running off in all directions, I went to see Mr. Fredricks, the teacher who’d installed me in his over-the-garage apartment.

“You always thought it was my largess,” he admitted. “But Miss Emmalee swore me to secrecy. She paid me a hundred dollars a month for the whole time you lived there.”

Next, I looked up my former boss at the car parts store. James Wilson’s story was similar. “She asked me to give you a job,” he admitted. “Course, she did me a favor. You were a damned good worker, Richie.”

I expressed my puzzlement over Miss Emmalee’s hidden influence on my life, and he suggested I talk to someone named Hilda Winemaker up in Tulsa. “She and Miss Emmalee had been thick as thieves. Grew up together and you never saw one without the other until Hilda married a man in Tulsa.”

I located the lady via the internet and gave her a call, explaining I was curious over my mom’s connection to the Vanderports.

“Everyone knew the Vanderports,” she said. “There isn’t anyone in that town who wasn’t influenced by that family. What are you looking for, Richie.”

She knew my name but not my familiar. “Just some things that have come up since Miss Emmalee’s death. About her and… my mom.” I held my breath as she answered.

‘I remember Mary Orchard very well. Your mother was a wonderful woman.”

“That she was.”

“A little intimidated by your father,” she added, “but a good woman.” She paused, perhaps for a reaction from me, but I didn’t give her one. “I’ll tell you what? If you’ll come up to Tulsa, we’ll have a quiet lunch at my home, and I’ll tell you all I know about Miss Emmalee.”

Miss Emmalee, not my mother. But I didn’t hesitate. “Would tomorrow be too soon?”

“Tomorrow would be fine.

 ****

So the portrait spooked Jorge, as well, but in a deeper way, perhaps. At any rate, he wants to move their lovemaking activities to his place because… “She knows, man.” Richie has also learned Miss Emmalee was more involved in his life right up until he went into the army after graduating high school.

 But now, he’s found a woman in Tulsa who might give him some answers. We’ll find out what she tells him next week.

 Until then.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Portrait of Miss Emmalee, A 5-Part Serial – Part 3

 dontravis.com blog post #545

Image courtesy of Fixthephoto.com



Jorge sounds intriguing, doesn’t he? Will he hurt or help in pursuing the solving of the secret behind Miss Emmalee’s slight frown? Perhaps we’ll find out in this installment of the story.

 


****

                                                         PORTRAIT OF MISS EMMALEE

Man, I’m having trouble getting this story out. I keep getting side-tracked, but it’s things that you ought to know about me. Like, while I’m definitely gay—lots better than queer, isn’t it—I don’t advertise the fact. Right or wrong, I stay firmly in the closet. That said, there are some things I won’t do to protect my reputation. I have lots of women friends, but not one of them is a lover or a beard. They’re friends—some of them good friends—and acquaintances, but I don’t think any of them harbor the misconception I’m going to up and fall in love with her someday.

That is not the case with Jorge. I don’t believe he’s gay. Bi, maybe, but his eyes go to dancing when a pretty girl comes around. Given his appearance, they all want to mother him, and do so up until the time they find him doing what he does so well. Someday, I’ll lose him to a gal, and I’ll be sad when it happens. But I won’t try to stop it, nor will it endanger his job at the shop. He’s a damned good auto body man. Of course, he’s a damned good lover too, but every man has the right to determine his own future.

****

With some unaccustomed spare time on my hands, I renewed my interest in Miss Emmalee Vanderport. Like everyone in town, I knew about the Vanderport family from the old Colonel James Wilson Vanderport having a hand at founding our town, although he didn’t favor it with the Vanderport name, something he did with every other thing he touched. We ended up being named Sidney. Not a terribly distinguished name, but okay, I guess. Sidney, Oklahoma had a certain ring to it… at least to me.

Anyway, the old Colonel opened a logging mill alongside a railroad track, and then history took over. We’d grown from simply a sawmill to a lumbering and farming town in our corner of the state. And along the way, the Vanderports had become rich. Filthy rich, my dear old dad used to say with a sneer. He seemed to have a bone to pick with our town’s foremost family but would never say what it was.

When the Colonel died, the town almost came to a full stop with grief. Maybe that’s not a good word. Trepidation may be more apt. What would happen with the demise of Sidney’s rock… Colonel James Nelson Vanderport. Nothing, turned out to be the answer. Elder son Wilson James Vanderport took over the business and the town survived. He didn’t. James Nelson Vanderport died a few years after his father, and Charles Sidney Vanderport, the second son, picked up the yoke and handled things very well.

Charles Sidney? Maybe the old man did name the town after the family. The long and the short of it is, the Vanderports had been around as long as Sidney, Oklahoma had been around, and Miss Emmalee was the torchbearer for the distaff side of the family. And she had done a fine job of it, as well. Of course, plebians like me always wondered why she hadn’t married and raised a houseful of children. My sainted mother had always equated success for females as marrying well and turning out a brood of acceptable tots. Why hadn’t she married? She’d been a beauty up until the day she died two months ago.

****

My curiosity led me to the town’s newspaper. I’d have said the newspaper’s morgue, except that pretty well described the entirety of our Sidney Weekly Journal. Miz Myrtle Bailey, who’d been reporter, editor, printer, and janitor of the Journal ever since I could recall, didn’t have copies of the newspaper on modern things like computers or even microfiche, but she did have a printed copy of every edition. With nothing to guide me to specific articles, I started wading through them one by one. Some member of the Vanderport family appeared in virtually every paper. Far from being bored, I found myself fascinated at the unfolding saga of this proud family.

The old Colonel had a past. The title had been honestly earned in Havana during the Spanish and American War. He was nearly cashiered when he fought a duel with one of his fellow officers over some young woman, but his foe survived his wound, and the Colonel survived his commission. Of course, he’d married a very proper Boston debutante and settled down to logging in his native Kentucky. What drew him to Oklahoma, I could never discern.

His two sons were drags, so far as being newsworthy was concerned. The only attention they received was as captains of industry—or what served as captains of industry in our little town. They grew up, married, and in turn, ran the mill before dying unspectacular deaths. None of their progeny was interested in carrying on the family business, so when the younger son, Charles Sidney died about eight years ago, a national corporation acquired the large mill and the remaining Vanderpark kin took the money and ran. All except Miss Emmalee. She stayed on and carried the family name forward in little Sidney.

She was a staple in the Journal, especially after the remainder of the family vamoosed. The articles about her sponsoring this charity or opening this ball—balls in Sidney, Oklahoma? More likely dances—or donating to that cause. That kind of thing. Nonetheless, I began to see her as a woman in her own right. I found something admirable about the gentle way she gave time and money to shaping and molding the young people in our town. Heck, I’d been the beneficiary of some of that largess without realizing it until I saw photos of Mom and myself with her at some camp for youth she’d sponsored. I also learned I’d gained my interest and expertise at the shop she’d built for the local school.

Then she disappeared from the paper’s pages. When questioned, Miz Baily said she’d taken a world cruise. Roamed all over the world for almost a year and a half. Skipping a bunch of issues, I located Miss Emmalee’s triumphant return to the place of her birth. The faded photographs in the paper’s yellowing copies seemed to show an older, more mature woman. But it was undoubtedly Miss Emmalee waving to the photographer or in deep discussion with a town dignitary or two.

****

My searches at the Journal did nothing but fan the flames of my developing obsession with Miss Emmalee. Some of the facts I’d uncovered stirred up memories. Connections, I guess you’d say. The Vanderports had played a bigger role in our family history than I’d realized. Some of the old photos kicked off vague memories of Miss Emmalee visiting our home. Chatting with Mom or bringing little presents. Always with mom, not when Dad was home. I could vaguely remember sitting on her lap a time or two when I was just a little kid.

A thought hit me in the head so hard, I about fell off my chair. Visiting with Mom. Never with Dad. My thoughts slid to Jorge. It couldn’t be. My mom and Miss Emmalee? Was it possible? But if so, and my dad knew, it explained a lot about his reaction when I confessed to being gay. That thought set me back on my haunches. Did they even have lesbians back in those days? I laughed aloud at my stupidity. Of course, they did. Human beings were human beings even back then with all their strengths and faults firmly in place. Jeez!

****

I don’t think this is going the way Richie thought it would. Has he discovered a liaison between his mother and Miss Emmalee? It would explain his father’s attitude, wouldn’t it? And maybe lend a little credence to Richie’s own leanings.

 Until next week.

 Stay safe and stay strong.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ambxgy7e5ndmimk/CutiePieMurders%5BThe%5D.zip?dl=0

 My personal links:

 Email: don.travis@aol.com.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982

Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.

                                                                                                                                 

Don

 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

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