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Publisher Xulon Press
Save $12.00 now $2.99 for the season
With a fresh degree in Criminal Justice Rachel Raines seeks a temporary place to hide a broken heart and a quieter police patrol than Chicago. Her late aunt's rural house is the best opportunity for both if she can survive huge spiders, bad plumbing, and being the rookie on a rural force. It's so unlike home- with no coffee baristas, no night life, and one singe restaurant that has a giant cow perched on the roof. It was not the life she had expected.
Sometimes God has other plans for us.
Dinner last night with my widowed neighbor Evelyn was more fun than I expected. I’m glad she picked a day later in the week when I invited her, so I had time to put it together. I enjoyed her company. Like my mother, she had a keen sense of humor and loved my book collection, offering to bring me some old books of hers to read. She is also of Swedish heritage as Mom was.
I can’t afford cable quite yet, so I’m limited to a few Chicago channels I get with the antenna, which seems to consist mostly of bankruptcy attorney commercials and reruns of crime shows. So far the only “crime” I’ve had to deal with in my new job as a rookie police officer was a GPS stolen out of an unlocked car at the local gas station while the driver was inside paying for his fuel. The thief likely wasn’t a local. With a town that’s only a few hundred acres, GPS was not exactly something everyone was longing for enough to be willing to commit a crime for.
I didn’t burn the pot roast, and Evelyn brought over some homemade lemonade that we enjoyed with the meal. She also didn’t tease me about getting packaged mashed potatoes. Instead, she excitedly said, “just like Mom used to buy!” I just didn’t want to get the huge bag of potatoes which was all our local small grocers offered. No individual ones were in sight in any of the bins.
There was one awkward moment. I went to dive into the potatoes, and Evelyn looked at me very carefully and said, “May I say grace?” I blushed for a moment and then nodded yes. Why was that hard? My parents bowed their heads and said grace before each and every meal, even in restaurants. How had these last few years taken me so far from that? It wasn’t just the partying in school; it was stepping back from all that I grew up with. I was finding the memories to be so painful. I was surprised that when Evelyn held my hand as she prayed, I felt a familiar comfort. God hadn’t been anywhere while I checked out; He’d been with me all along. I just needed to learn to talk to Him again.
Because it was dark, I walked her home, just to make sure she got inside safely. She teased me about fussing over her, but if she was my mom, that’s what I would have wanted someone to do. She also said she’d introduce me to her niece, a nurse who was about my age and lived in Brownstown, the little city less than an hour south of here. Perhaps she and I could be friends and make some trips to Chicago together.
As I returned to the house, I took my boots off, gliding quietly over polished floors, throwing my denim jacket on the fragmentary curve of a chair. The house quiet now, I went down to the basement, ducking my head in courtesy to the low ceiling, where I would take up a tool and hammer’s loneliness into a piece of wood. I think of the homes I had lived in. There were two during childhood, all now gone, now inhabited by strangers who probably painted over the sunny rainbows I always had on my walls.
I didn’t know if I wanted to live in such a small town for more than a few years, but there were memories here. The china we ate off at Thanksgiving remained in the cupboards; my uncle’s books still sat on their shelf. There, in the closet, were the carefully-tended uniforms of a Great War, the cloth itself assuming the shape and form of those who are our heroes. It loomed tremendously against that backdrop of books, tools, and a small folded flag whose presence filled a sleeping house.
I opened up the window, the air breathing in and out. Lightning again flashed, and with the weight of the dark my breath quickened; my blood was running warm and quiet. So many places are now gone or changed that what I remember of them was more like recalling a piece of music I’ve heard but never played.
I couldn’t sleep last night. My eyelids twitched as I tried to sleep, the movement in response to my brain’s thoughts or perhaps merely the cyclical movement of the earth and all of her angels above. In this place, there were memories made, and life was perhaps forever changed.
I wondered if years from now I moved back to the city, would I drive by here, just to see if the memories were still here? For our homes are often the places of our happiest memories. They were scraps of time, like scraps of a note where your name once lay; it was a bit of stiff paper that meant little by itself yet was still kept. You would not burn it or throw it away because it meant something, something you could hold even if the marks upon it were faded to white, something that said what you were. Something that said what you felt, even as you still are in some way the same.
After hopefully many years of dreaming and growing, there will come another night with eyes that twitch with the mind’s flooding, even if the body is failing. The organs require the care inherent in a Swiss watch even as time ticks down. The eyes are full of everything, save consciousness, and others gather around, looking on with knowing and unbearable eyes. The places of your memory are likely long gone; all they have here are the pictures of them in that brain that still sparks like a match, unspoken stories mirrored in the eyes of those around you.
Those places are never truly lost. They simply lie near a peaceful trail, beside a placid and assuring pond of spent years’ remains, in the mirror of days in which the mind still contemplates older desires and everlasting hopes. They are there, always quiet, musing, and steadfast, the joy still triumphant even if the actual place is now cinder and dirt. In that brain was one final vision, a place perhaps, a person, someone for whom that spark still exists even if they were years gone. As the breath slows, the body remembers, and the eyes finally close as they embrace the all-seeing.
Since I couldn’t sleep last night, I did something I never could do in the city after dark; I went for a walk, though I was armed just in case I came upon a rabid cow or something. As I walked past the old cemetery, I noticed a floral spray on one of the new graves. It was from the funeral of the young man who lost his life the other night in the car crash. Much of the town was there as well as most of the officers, paying their respects to his grieving family. He’s not the only young person that is buried there; automobiles and farm machinery have a way of being unforgiving. I note another marker for a young man buried before he was even eighteen years old. It was erected long before the soul’s shroud that lies beneath would have believed, a life cut short without pattern or prediction. The stone had seen both sun and rain. It had witnessed the dry heave of grief coming deep from the chest and the splash of tears against stone. It will be here as the landscape grows, withers, dies, and grows again, generation after generation, even as those who visit fade from drought to dust. It will be here when the night calls our name and doesn’t look back.
I arrived back home without making my journal entry, and, with my jacket put away, I fell asleep on the couch I’d picked up at a rummage sale, wearing my aunt’s fluffy bathrobe that still smells faintly of Wind Song perfume. At first light, I awoke. From outside the window, the rain ceased as a flock of geese flew overhead. Their sounds rose toward an astonishing crescendo, beyond the compass of hearing, as they flew upwards into a bright blue sky.
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LB Johnson was raised on the West coast where she held jobs in a funeral home and on the flight line, after getting fired as an elf in Santa's workshop. With a Mom who was Deputy Sheriff and a Dad who was retired Air Force, duty was in her blood. After herding large aircraft around the world as a pilot, she hung up her wings and went back to school for a Ph.D. and a career more in line with her families law enforcement background. Somewhere in there, a rambunctious black lab was added, and the idea for The Book of Barkley was born.