story - Download as PDF

Document Sample
story - Download as PDF Powered By Docstoc
              athy threw the book across the room. “Why must you all

              always end? Now I have to go back to living my own stupid


   “Kathy? What‟s happened? “Jan called through the door. She knew

better than to open it without warning Kathy she was there. Jan had

startled Kathy too many times when she was reading. To say Kathy

immersed herself in her books was an understatement. After last week‟s

screaming match, it was not likely Jan would forget again.

   “Sorry, Jan.   Nothing! I just finished this great book!”   Jan took a

couple steps back toward her room next door so when Kathy opened her

own door on “book”, Kathy couldn‟t tell if her best friend and roommate

was fleeing or satisfied with the answer. Like Jan knew to warn Kathy

when she was there, Kathy was learning to address Jan personally and by

name instead of Talking-to-the-World-At-Large, or TWAL, as Jan called it.

   Kathy had been working hard with her therapist, Edita, learning to

stop and acknowledge other people instead of staying immersed in her

own head. But she hated that she had to learn to do that; it made her

feel like a robot. Yes she got carried away by her own fantasies but

learning to pay attention by rote didn‟t feel like it would help solve that


   “I am sorry, Jan, I really didn‟t mean to disturb you,” she said to her

roommate‟s back. Jan turned and gave a smile and a small wave from

her own room‟s open doorway. “But this book! Someday I am going to

figure out how to merge my books and my life.”

   “Good luck with that, Kat.” Jan grinned. “Let me know if you figure it

out. But I‟m trying to get some studying done over here if you could

figure it out a little quieter?” Jan didn‟t wait for a reply, knowing with half

an inch Kathy would launch into a fantastic tale or try to tell her all about

the finished book. She disappeared back into her room and, this time,

closed her door.

   Kathy and Jan were both were in their mid-twenties, brown haired and

eyed, and overweight in the same chubby, unformed way that looked

like, in ten years, it would either burn off or settle into middle-age

spread. Jan‟s hair was lighter, straight, and shoulder-length. Kathy‟s

hair was shorter, had a bit of wave to it, and was stuffed behind her ears

to keep it out of her face.

   Jan was a pharmaceutical marketing rep, working on a PhD in

chemistry. Kathy and she had worked at the same company, where

Kathy had been an administrative assistant. Now Kathy was an assistant

manager for an independent bookstore in a local mall and worked half-

heartedly on finishing her degree in accounting. Jan‟s hobby was making

pottery whereas Kathy was trying to get back into sewing, went to a

sewing shop in the mall for lessons each week. She wanted to design

and make her own clothes.

   Now Kathy shuffled down the hall in her pajamas and slippers to their

tiny kitchen and grabbed a box of cereal, bowl, spoon, and her carton of

milk out of the refrigerator before heading back to her room again. She

needed a snack before going to bed.

   Jan‟s pottery was everywhere in the cottage apartment they rented;

she‟d made most of their dishes, including the bowl Kathy now carried. It

was not surprising that when Kathy entered her room again that the first

thing she saw was the “Check Heart” bowl Jan had made for her as a

surprise and apology after one of their bigger arguments last summer.

   Jan was in therapy too, but with “Randy.” That had been one of the

things that had drawn the two girls together, being comfortable talking

about therapy issues. They originally met online during a psychology

community site chat. Kathy admired Jan‟s good sense, tactful

suggestions to others, and had taken pains to get to know her better on

the site. The friendship really took off when they discovered they lived in

the same, small state and Kathy suggested Jan apply for a job at the

pharmaceutical firm where Kathy already worked. Though Jan appeared

quieter than Kathy, she wasn‟t less opinionated and as many things as

they had in common, they had other, significant differences.

   Jan wasn‟t as interested in the therapy process as Kathy was but

appreciated Kathy‟s enthusiasm. When Kathy had told Jan how Edita was

teaching her to “check her heart” in order to know how best to personally

respond to a situation, Jan‟s artistic side had laughed at the image of a

checkerboard heart or a heart with a checkmark through it. She had

made Kathy a couple of pottery pieces glazed in her favorite color, green,

but Kathy truly loved the bowl with the large checkerboard heart etched

in its side. She kept it by her bed and kept other special or symbolic

personal items in and around it. She kept her dream journal beneath it.

   Now she went over to her bedside table and made a bowl of cereal but

picked up the Check Heart bowl thoughtfully before starting to eat.

Inside were the remains of the last project she‟d made using the bowl;

she‟d placed various fitness exercises inside written on slips of paper and

drawn one a day, doing the exercise she picked, that day, for ten

minutes. The experiment had only lasted three days before she‟d slept in

and almost been late for work.       She put the bowl down and started

eating her cereal, still thinking.

   What if she used the exercise from the children‟s writing course she

took a couple years ago, chose a few words at random and wrote a story

based on those words? She still felt like she knew “Otis” the elevator as a

friend and every time she was in a multi-floor department store, found

herself looking around for a parrot! But the twist on this word choosing

would be a story that she‟d write in the morning and go looking for the

rest of the day. She could combine her love of synchronicity with her

desire to live in a story. Wouldn‟t it be like dreams, her creation so more

likely to actually be true on some level? Why, she could probably write

stories about her problems and then go out and find the solutions!

   The cereal was forgotten as she quickly found scrap paper, scissors,

and, online, a list of common words. She dumped the bowl and started

filling it with words. At the same time she started thinking about the

rules of the game. She‟d pick five slips every morning but wouldn‟t have

to use all five words if she didn‟t want to. If she didn‟t like the

combination of words, she could put some back, or throw them away, and

pick others. She would write a story, not longer than 1000 words, and

then write another 500-1000 words in the evening, about her experiences

of the day that happened around that morning‟s story.

   Kathy was glad when she woke the next morning that it was Sunday.

She‟d been dreaming about Edita and being in a therapy session where
none of the words made sense; she knew the words but not their

meaning. She woke mumbling “elephant comb.” Her mother‟s aphasia

again, obviously. Thinking about Edita and words reminded her of the

bowl of words next to her and she immediately reached in and drew five

of them out: “clock,” “please,” “rule,” “river.” She decided she didn‟t like

“river” and put back and drew two more, “motion,” and, “sense.”

   “Please clock, make a rule that your motions must make sense!” She

laughed. Hey, maybe that could be her story theme? Only then did she

look at the clock and see it was only 5:17. She‟d forgotten that it was

the first of November and the first day of standard time too. How

appropriate that she‟d gotten “clock” and “rule,” the game was already

being played!

   Kathy was a great believer in synchronicity and that it operated kind of

like dreams and daydreams; one had multiple synchronicities things

happen to one during the day but most people didn‟t notice them.

   She opened her door as quietly as she could and padded down the hall

in bare feet to the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on, hoping the noise or

aroma wouldn‟t wake Jan.        Jan didn‟t sleep well, some nights not at all,

and Kathy didn‟t want an angry or grumpy Jan on her hands at the start

of this particular adventure.

   Making the coffee in the coffee maker instead of a single cup in the

microwave took almost more time than Kathy could bear but she was

afraid the cheerful beeping of the microwave would be too loud. While

she waited, she walked in circles, trying to remember the five words and

thinking about what the story could possibly be about. “Clock Rules”

would be its title, she decided.

   Thinking about a living clock, she remembered back in seventh grade

when an English assignment had been to write a myth. She‟d written

about electricity and the world surrounding electrical wiring and negative

and positive energy. She used all the common words as characters,

“kilowatts,” “volts,” “amps,” and now she was reminded of the local

power company‟s bright, smiling, yellow electric light bulb cartoon


   Once back in her room with a large mug of coffee containing too much

cream and sugar, Kathy sat at her desk and started writing.

                                   Clock Rules

         Emily’s alarm clock woke her with a loud squawking

      sound like a horn or out-of-tune parrot. “Wake up you

      sleepy heads, your clock says it’s time to get up!”

          Emily didn’t know which she liked less, the too-loud

       DJ or his noisemaker. “Very funny, Mr. Clock Radio,”

       she replied, “but I don’t believe clocks can say

       anything; I believe an obnoxious DJ is using the time

       to be obnoxious!”

          “Clocks can’t say anything? What do you know

       about it?” asked the obnoxious voice from the clock.

       Emily stared at the clock for only a moment before

       reaching over and turning it off. That just made the

       voice angry.

          “I’m going to tell the Master Clock on you!” it


          Emily reached over, pushed another button and

       tried to change the radio station.

   “Kathy! What are you doing? I was trying to sleep. Turn off that

damn radio!” Kathy could only stare at Jan in her doorway; a preacher

was loudly chanting the familiar Biblical dichotomies from the radio next

to her:

   A   time   to   weep and a time to laugh;
   A   time   to   mourn and a time to dance.
   A   time   to   throw stones and a time to gather stones;
   A   time   to   embrace and a time to shun embracing.

   Jan walked over and ripped the electric cord from the wall. “What

were you thinking!”

   “I‟m so sorry, Jan! I had no idea. The clock. . .it was talking,” she


   “Of course it was talking, it‟s a clock radio! What were you doing

listening on a Sunday morning at seven a.m. anyway; it‟s nothing

but church services.”

   “I think it‟s only six,” Kathy whispered. “Today‟s the start of

Eastern Standard Time. Summer‟s over.” She gave Jan a small,

fearful smile. Please, please, let it be over, she thought. Please,

Mr. Clock Radio, I‟m very sorry I offended you; if you can get Jan to

just smile and leave, I‟ll have Emily make it up to you.

   Jan yawned. “That‟s okay, I guess, I just wasn‟t expecting

preachers. I‟m a little glad you woke me, Tom‟s picking me up for

the day early and I didn‟t set any other alarm,” she explained with

a smile. “But Kathy. . .” she shook her head and turned to leave,

“please, please, no more disturbances for awhile, okay?”

   “I swear it won‟t happen again,” Kathy promised the empty


   Whew, that was close. Kathy giggled; now Emily had to make it up to

Mr. Clock Radio. What had she done? She must have accidentally turned

on the radio thinking she was Emily turning it off or changing the station.

Kathy reread what she‟d written. The voice had threatened to tell the

Master Clock. Emily was frightened and tried to turn off the radio.

   Well, enough excitement for one morning, Kathy thought as she

looked at her watch; it‟s going on seven now, six forty-one. She bent

over and plugged the clock radio back in and waited for it to flash 12:00.

Instead, it registered a solid, red, 6:42. “Hello?” she wondered, her hand

still on the power cord. Nothing else happened. Kathy suddenly grinned,

“You idiot, it‟s got a battery backup!”

   Once Tom had come and picked up Jan, Emily put the Simon and

Garfunkel CD she‟d swiped from her stepmother on Jan‟s player in the

living room and cranked it up so she could hear it in the kitchen as she

made herself breakfast. A Sunday to herself, what should she do?

   It looked like the first five words had already been a success. With the

words “clock” and “rule” being drawn on the day daylight savings time

switched over to standard time, and the story ending with a preacher

reading the Simon and Garfunkel “Turn, Turn, Turn” song verses about

time, which had reminded her of the CD she had on now, that all seemed

like enough synchronicity to convince Kathy, but Kathy believed

synchronicity was a bit more important than that, that it should teach one

something, like a dream message.

   Time, time, time, see what's become of me
   While I looked around
   For my possibilities
   I was so hard to please
   But look around, leaves are brown
   And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

   The music from the living room suddenly intruded on Kathy‟s thoughts.

“Not again!” She laughed. “Okay, okay, I get the message. I‟m not

getting any younger and I have to start paying more attention to what

I‟m doing. How about after breakfast I pick another five words and you,

my Guide, and Mr. Clock Radio, can show me how to go about doing


   Kathy took her egg sandwich with her back to her room. She took a

bite and then picked up the bowl with the words in it and chose the first

one. “Hat,” she chose. Well, it was November, she‟d wear one when she

went out. The next word was, “picture,” followed by “string.” Maybe I

should make a string picture of a hat or a hat out of string and then take

a picture. She took another bite of her sandwich and picked the last two

words, “room,” and “travel.” She took another bite and then started


                  With Strings Attached

   Jess opened the box from the reunion committee

and found three black baseball caps with a Middle

Ages knight-type, gray shield with a red cross and

five gold stars patch, sewn on the front and a weird

white bird that looked a little like an elongated

parakeet, or maybe a pheasant, and her family name

and the year, “Adams 10,” arched across the back,

over the plastic, size-controller.    The Adams

family reunion was in Cincinnati;    she and her

parents would be driving from near Philadelphia next

week to attend.

  “Jess, was that the mail delivery service?       What

is it?” a woman‟s voice called from a back room.

  “It‟s a box from the Adams reunion committee,

Mom!   It‟s baseball caps for us to wear,” the

sixteen year old called back.

  Alicia Adams came out of the kitchen and walked

through the formal dining room to the entrance hall

where Jess had torn open the package and now had

packing material strewn across the floor.   “Jess,

what did I tell you about patience and opening

packages carefully?   What if it had been something


  “It would have had a red „FRAGILE‟ sign on the

box with a picture of a broken glass, and it didn‟t.

I can‟t picture you in a baseball cap, Mom.    Have

you ever worn one?”

  “And talking back. . .” her mother hinted.

  “Oh, Mom, I don‟t think I can bear to wait

another week to take that picture I found in the

attic to the reunion and see if anyone knows who it


  Mrs. Adams bent and picked up the box and trash.

“That‟s nice,” she said.   “Leave the hats on the

table for your father, dear, and come in the kitchen

and help me fix dinner, please.”

  “I can‟t, homework.” Jess turned and started up

the stairs to her room.

  “Jessica!   I said come help me, now!”
   Kathy stopped writing and listened. It was quiet. The CD had

finished. It‟s hard work writing these stories, she thought as she

stretched her neck and shoulders, all the research. I don‟t even know

anyone named Adams and here I now know all about their heraldry and

name info.

   She stood, picked up the empty sandwich plate and a couple diry

mugs and took them to the kitchen. Then she went and put away the

CD. Jan was funny sometimes about letting her use the player and Kathy

didn‟t want to give her any excuses for more arguments. Lesson one had

gotten through; she was to pay more attention in real time! “I should do

something about my dirty dishes too,” she sighed.

   With her part of the housework done, it was still not even Noon and

Kathy didn‟t feel like doing any more writing. Maybe she‟d go to the Mall,

do a bus woman‟s holiday and go by the bookstore. The quilting store

was there too, she could stop and see if her teacher, Pat was working

today, maybe look for some material for her next project.

              athy, honey, it‟s your day off,” Anita Rogers, Boundless

              Books‟ owner greeted her. “You know I love you but you

              have to quit coming in here on your day off. Do I have to

say something to Alex so he keeps you better occupied?” she teased.

   “Annie, I told you Alex and I broke up a week ago.”

   “You two are always breaking up and then making up, tell me

something new. Why do you come in here on your day off?” Anita

rearranged the books on the shelf next to her as she talked. Anita was

always in motion; greeted everyone, noticed everything going on in her

little bookstore domain.

   “To check up on you,” Kathy grinned. “Not busy today?” Kathy looked

around the cozy, little store and only saw Amy, behind the register. Amy

nodded her head and smiled in greeting when she saw Kathy.

   “What you doing, Kathy, hanging out at the Mall, playing teenager?”

she called across the room only about the size of Kathy and Jan‟s living

and dining areas.

   “I finished that Modesitt Imagers fantasy thing I was telling you all

about last night; that two-part series? I have to get something to replace

it, I need my fix!”
   The store was even vaguely laid out like the little cottage. Kathy still

felt embarrassed thinking about the day she wandered into the employee

kitchen area in the back, and, surprised, asked Anita, “What happened to

the refrigerator?” because the store refrigerator where they put their

lunches and snacks is only half the size of the one in the cottage and a

totally different color. She had managed to bluff her way out so she

didn‟t think Anita knew she‟d been confused about where she was but

she‟d cried in frustration telling Edita, her therapist. Things like that

happened too often to her.

   Kathy wandered over to the romance novel section and quickly found a

historical romance and Amy ran it through the register with her employee

discount. “Do come see us again soon, Ms. Hough” she crooned, with a

too big, customer-sized, supercilious smile on her face as she handed

Kathy the bag with the book in it.

   “Thank you, Ms. Foster, I will!” Kathy replied cheerfully with a little

bow. “Bye, Anita. I may come in tomorrow when I‟m scheduled.” Anita

had stuck her head out through the curtain separating the front of the

store from the back when she heard Amy and Kathy‟s goodbyes.

   “Put a lid on it. . .Oh! Caroline left her fairy princess hat in here last

night when you brought them in in their Halloween costumes. Let me go
get it.” Caroline was Kathy‟s niece and Kathy had ransacked her car and

all but torn her hair out looking for that when her sister-in-law called to

ask had she seen it. Apparently Caroline wanted it with her when she

went to bed, had slept in the princess undergarments and had gotten on

the phone to tearfully demand that Kathy look everywhere for it.

   “Here it is.” Anita handed the foam green confection to Kathy who

immediately put it on her own head and curtsied. Green was Kathy‟s

favorite color but the pants and jacket she was wearing made her look

more like Robin Hood than a fairy princess.

   “Thank you, my Lady! I‟m sure Caroline‟s reward to you will be

handsome. ”

   “Hey, you there, lowly shop keeper,” she said to Amy, “do you have a

bag I could put this in so as not to soil it? Hurry up, there, you!”

   “Despite being all of a color, Sir, I‟m afraid you look ridiculous in your

pants and jerkin with a fairy princess hat on. Are you sure it belongs to

you? I wouldn‟t want to have to call the guards, have you thrown in the

dungeon!” Despite her words, Amy handed her the large bag anyway.

   “Are you working tomorrow, Aims?” Kathy ended the game by taking

off the hat, gently folding the tulle netting around it and putting it into
the plastic bag. She gave her head a shake and reached up and combed

her fingers through her hair to get rid of the feeling the hat was still

resting there.

   “Yes, I‟m afternoon, evening. I‟ll be here around 1:30?”

   “I‟ll see you then , then.” Kathy smiled weakly at the word play. “I‟ll

see you, Anita, in the morning at eight. Don‟t forget I leave early

tomorrow.” Both women knew Kathy went to see Edita but none of the

three mentioned it very often.

   Kathy left the store and took the escalator down to the ground floor of

the Mall and walked the short distance to the sewing store. She looked

through the entrance but didn‟t see anyone she knew and remembered

that Pat didn‟t work on Sundays.    Kathy used the store‟s machines to

sew on, didn‟t have a machine of her own. She had her eye on a fifteen

hundred dollar machine that did embroidery too and hooked to your

computer so you could upload your own designs but she kept raiding her

savings account to buy more books for her beloved history courses and

only made sure she had enough to pay Pat each week.

   Looking at her watch, Kathy decided to skip going into the store and

run by her brother‟s house and take the princess hat back to Caroline,

maybe see if she could get invited to dinner. Jan wouldn‟t be back until

late, after ten, she‟d said. Kathy did want to get back to her writing; she

had an idea for her story where the Adams heraldic baseball caps tangle

with princess hats or turn into princess hats or something.

             athy patted the top of her head lightly and finger combed

             her hair again. It still felt like she was wearing the pointed

             hat. A dunce‟s hat if it didn‟t have the tulle. Maybe that

was a message to her. If it were a dream, what would the whole hat

thing be about? Maybe she‟s a princess but feels like a dunce? Baseball

caps are guy things and Jess is a girl. Funny that she made the baseball

cap have a medieval heraldic shield on it and Caroline forgot her princess

hat and Kathy ended up with it. But like Amy said, it was clearly evident

she looked like Robin Hood, not a princess. Lots of mixed messages

going on.

   Kathy secretly wished she could have been a medieval squire. She

was a history major for three years before her stepmother made her

switch majors to business and then she‟d dropped out in her senior year.

She‟d signed up for fencing in phys ed but her stepmother got to her

before her second choice and made her take senior life saving and typing,

practical subjects, the next semester.

   She had to admit the typing had gotten her the job at the

pharmaceutical company where Jan still worked and she was old enough

now that she could take courses online instead of going to campus.

Doggedly she worked on finishing a business degree, concentrating on

account which she liked well enough, but now that she was on her own

and no longer lived with her father and stepmother, she also took history

courses and belonged to several genealogy and local history groups.

   Kathy looked around and was surprised to find herself in the mall

parking lot but in the area where employees parked. She wasn‟t an

employee today though and the mall lots were full of weekend shoppers.

Where had she parked? Dunce indeed, she thought!

   Fortunately Kathy‟s mind‟s eye was as good as her ability to get lost in

her thoughts so she was able to picture the door she entered the mall by

and follow the mental picture back to her car.

   Kathy often drove by her brother, John‟s, and sister-in-law, Elyse‟s

house on the way home from work and the mall so didn‟t have to

concentrate too hard on where she was going; “Gyro,” her car, knew the

way. Just before ringing their doorbell, Kathy reached into the bag and

put the princess hat on. The kids, four year old Caroline and three year

old, Michael usually were the ones to look out the door‟s side windows

first and announce who the caller was.

   “Aunt Kathy!” Caroline screamed through the locked door as she

wrestled with opening it, “That‟s MY princess hat; take it off!” Elyse came

and nudged Caroline out of the way so she could unlock and open the

door. Caroline wasted no time jumping up to try and snatch the hat off

Kathy‟s head.

   “Caroline! Let Aunt Kathy in first before you try to do rude things to

her,” Elyse instructed with a smile on her face. Caroline‟s attempts to get

the hat were successful on the second, in-house attempt and she ran off

triumphantly toward the family room.

   Elyse reached over and gave Kathy a warm hug. “Welcome to

Bedlam,” she said, “Can you stay for dinner? John should be home in

about half an hour. I don‟t quite know all we‟re going to eat but you‟re

welcome to whatever it is.”

   “Thank you, I thought you‟d never ask.” Kathy wasn‟t worried about

Elyse‟s not yet having planned dinner; Elyse was a trained chef and had

chosen marrying John and starting a family five years ago over opening

her own restaurant. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

   “If you could watch Caroline and Michael for a bit while I get it started,

that would be great!”

   “Okay!” Kathy said as she turned and headed left for the family room.

After a moment, Elyse turned right and walked up the short flight of stairs

to the kitchen, which partially overlooked the family room.

   By the time John arrived half an hour later, the couch cushions had

been a fort and were now serving as a sliding board with Kathy‟s legs as

supports. Michael yelled, “Daddy‟s home!” and both children left Kathy to

run to their father. This gave Kathy a moment to put the cushions back

where they belonged and pick up a few of the toys that had been dumped

on the floor so the large, plastic bin they were stored in could be used as

an amusement park ride.

   “Hey, Kat, how are you?” John greeted her, a child riding on each leg

as he walked into the family room.

   “Settle down, kids,” Elyse commanded almost simultaneously as she

came down the stairs with a tray of drinks and glasses. “How about you

pick up some of these toys and put them back in the bin; Aunt Kathy

shouldn‟t have to do that.”

   The children left their father to run to the tray on the table and grab

their sippy cups of juice. Slurping noisily, they ran back and sat down on

the floor by the plastic bin and obediently started picking up and throwing

toys into it with whichever hand wasn‟t holding the juice cup.

   “I‟m good.” Kathy said as she took a beer from the tray. “You?”

   “Can‟t complain,” John finished the ritual greeting as they both grinned

at each other and reached over to clink their beer bottles together. Elyse

shook her head in mock disbelief.

   “How are Mom and Dad?” Kathy asked. “Have you all heard from

them since they left for Florida?” It was Kathy and John‟s stepmother

and her brothers, their uncles, who had used and taught them the, “I‟m

good-you?-can‟t complain,” sequence when they were children.

   “Nope. They should be there this evening I think; I bet Mom will call

tonight to say they arrived.” Again they grinned at each other and then

clinked bottles; their mother‟s calling after trips, long or short, to say

they‟d arrived safely was a family joke.

   “Didn‟t you get in trouble once for not calling,” Kathy suggested, “or

was that Chas?” Chas, or Charles, was Kathy‟s next older brother, John‟s

younger brother. Kathy was the youngest and their other brother, Mike

was oldest. Their stepmother had a daughter even older than Mike but

her husband was a diplomat and currently they lived in Paris. Kathy and
John‟s mother had died of a brain tumor when Kathy was Michael‟s age

and John had only been eight or nine.

   “That must have been Chas,” John said. “I didn‟t get in nearly as

much trouble as you and Mike. That was one of the only good things

about being in the middle; I usually got overlooked when there were

problems,” he explained to Elyse.

   “I can‟t believe your mom was that bad. She‟s so good with the

children now.”

   “Well,” John countered, “We weren‟t bad kids but we did do our share

of trying to get away with murder,” he grinned. “Do you remember,” he

asked, turning toward Kathy, “How you use to always try to get out of

helping with dinner by claiming you had homework to do?”

   “It wasn‟t fair!” Kathy exclaimed. “Just because I was the girl why did

I have to always be the one expected to help? And I DID have homework

to do; I wasn‟t making that up!”

   A timer went off on the stove and Elyse got up to go turn it off.

“Sounds like dinner‟s ready; everyone to the table,” she said cheerfully

over her shoulder.

   “I get to sit next to Aunt Kathy!” Caroline called as she ran up the

stairs and through the kitchen to the dining room.

   Dinner was a comforting and filling potato ham chowder and a Caesar

salad for the adults, and leftover, hot dog lasagna for the kids. Kathy

was a bit jealous of the kids; she loved Elyse‟s hot dog creations, her

favorite being hot dog omelets.

   Kathy went home almost immediately after dinner, Elyse making a

package of the leftover leftover lasagna and potato ham chowder for her

to take. Kathy was sure Jan would love the chowder and she herself

could have the remains of the lasagna tomorrow night.

   “Bye all!” Kathy called again absently before noticing the door had

already been closed after her.    She did see the children waving still from

the front windows so she too waved some more. “Kathy. . .” she

admonished patiently, “Here you are thinking about tomorrow‟s dinner

instead of giving a proper goodbye to your loved ones right in front of you

now,” and she shook her head.

   Jan wasn‟t home yet when Kathy got there. She put away the

leftovers, took a shower, and got in her pajamas. Rereading the two

story beginnings of the morning and thinking about Mr. Clock Radio, caps

with heraldic emblems, family reunions, fairy princess hats, and

stepmothers, Kathy decided to start over from scratch tomorrow morning

and see if she couldn‟t get a clearer idea of what the Synchronicity was

trying to tell her. But, as she laid down to go to sleep, she couldn‟t help

wondering what the Master Clock was thinking. Maybe he‟ll tell me in my

dreams, she thought.

   Jan, a slight frown on her face, quietly opened Kathy‟s door an hour

later and found her asleep. Her news would have to wait until tomorrow.

             athy woke Monday morning from a dream about an outdoor

             bookcase that she‟d been gathering books from to bring

             inside for the winter. She remembered feeling stupid

because she‟d just taken them outside and arranged them and now she

had decided to bring them back inside so the weather wouldn‟t ruin them.

Like it never rained the other parts of the year, she thought. It was

already seven o‟clock and she wanted to be at work by eight. “Damn,”

she muttered, “I won‟t get to do any writing this morning.”

   As she dressed in her good work slacks, Kathy decided to pick three

words now and think about them at work and then pick three more later,

maybe between work and going to see Edita, or maybe right after seeing

Edita? She couldn‟t decide. But maybe the three words would do

something interesting or something would happen and cause the next

three to have meaning; it would at least make for a more interesting,

suspenseful day, watching and hoping something unusual would happen.

   The first word she chose was good, “substance.” The second word

was, “history.” Kathy grinned, one of her favorite words. A word with

true substance.   The third word was, “wheel.” Hmm, Kathy thought, I

hope nothing bad happens with my car.

   Kathy put on her watch, noticing it was now seven forty. She walked

quickly and as quietly as she could down the hall past Jan‟s closed door

and grabbed a banana from the “split” bowl in the kitchen, peeled it and

stuffed almost half of it in her mouth.

   Jan had made the bowl so it literally had four boat-shaped sections

around a core; it looked a little like an open flower; and you could make

four banana splits in if you had a party and serve them all at once. Each

section disconnected from the core, was just hooked on with a handle

sort of curve.   There was a special, round platter that went underneath

and which the core was attached to which supported the sections and let

you carry the whole thing to the table.        If you took the bowls off you had

a chip and dip plate, the dip went in the core. She and Kathy used the

bowls to separate and store different fruits; bananas in one section,

apples in another, etcetera. There were only three on the platter now,

one empty, the fourth section was in the refrigerator holding grapes.

   Or a wheel! It was round with spokes wasn‟t it? Kathy shook her

head as if to clear it. Oh, Lord, she thought, now I‟m going to be seeing

wheels everywhere today. She rinsed her hands at the sink and left

through the kitchen door, which she forgot to lock after herself, and

headed to work in Gyro, her Subaru Forester. As she was driving she

intoned the three words in all different combinations, to help herself

remember them,

   “History, a wheel with substance!

   Substance, the history of the wheel!

   Wheeling along, I am the true substance of history!”

   She parked in the employee area and made it to the back door of the

store by eight o‟five. She had a key but didn‟t need it, Anita was there

first and the door was unlocked.

   “Hey, Anita,” Kathy called, coming through the door.

   “Good morning, Kathy, I‟m in here making coffee, you want a cup?”

   “Sure. Sorry I‟m a little late, I woke up a bit late. I was having this

weird dream about books though, I think that should count as work, don‟t

you?” Kathy walked over to the little kitchen area and sat at the table

there. Anita set a cup before her and sat down herself. “What are we

doing today?” Kathy asked.

   “I would like you to finish logging in the books we received Saturday,

Amy didn‟t get to that yesterday. But it‟s Monday, not much going on

until maybe this evening. I‟ll work out front and when you finish, we can

switch places and I‟ll make a few calls, work on the accounts, the usual.”

   Anita was a striking woman, mostly silver gray and white haired

though she was only in her mid-fifties Kathy thought. She taught

business courses part-time at the local university, the one Kathy took

some courses through and that‟s how they‟d met. Kathy had been in

Anita‟s “Basic Entrepreneurship” course, they‟d talked and Anita had hired

her to work in the store. That was nearly a year ago but Kathy still didn‟t

know much about Anita‟s private life. She was a very private person and

Kathy was afraid to ask her personal questions; almost the same way she

was afraid to ask Edita questions. She talked about Anita with Edita,

almost as if she were testing the waters between she and Edita but didn‟t

learn much about Edita or how to talk to Anita. She thought Anita liked

her, she acted warm towards her sometimes but Kathy was afraid to get

too close.

   Kathy finished entering the books received Saturday into the store‟s

proprietary software; there had been only four or five left to do, and then

she pulled a notebook from her backpack and a disk which put it into the

computer. She was working on a paper about James Fenimore Cooper

for her “American Literary History” course. Picking the word, “history” as

one of the three this morning had reminded her about the paper, due

Friday and she‟d slipped the materials into her backpack to bring to work,

hoping, because it was Monday, that it would be slow and she‟d get a

chance to work on it. She had to tie Cooper and his work to the politics

and social history of the time and was writing about the “Bread and

Cheese” Club he founded in New York City.

   Around ten o‟clock Anita looked through the curtain to the back rooms

and asked, “you about done there, Kathy?”

   Kathy nonchalantly looked up and said, “Yes, just now!” hit a button

on the computer, stood, and stretched. Anita smiled and said, “Well, I‟m

about finished out here too; there‟s only been three customers, let‟s

switch?” and the curtains closed behind her as she walked back to the

front desk.   Kathy quickly ejected her disk, put it and her notebook back

in her backpack and all in her cubby and walked out front too.

   Anita gave her a few housekeeping chores to do while she worked out

front, just enough to keep her busy so she wouldn‟t get bored with so few

customers. It would pick up around lunchtime as the workers from the

surrounding office buildings came to the mall to find lunch and do a little

shopping and then be quiet again until three or four when schools let out

and parents brought their kids to the mall for quick eats and a little

shopping entertainment.

   Sure enough, Kathy didn‟t get her first customer, an early corporate

luncher, until nearly eleven o‟clock. “Welcome to Boundless Books. Can

I help you find anything?” She asked the young man she was sure was a

computer programmer; he looked a little like Alex.

   “Do you have Robert Jordan‟s fantasy series, „The Wheel of Time‟,” he

asked. Kathy just looked at him in shock.

   “Uh,” she said. “Uh, I think so. Over here, I think.” Kathy couldn‟t

stop her mouth saying dumb things. Her mind was racing. Both “wheel”

and “time” in that one. Was she supposed to read the series? Was the

Master Clock playing games with her? Stop it, she chided herself. There-

is-no-Master-Clock! It‟s just coincidence. It has to be just coincidence!

   When they got to the fantasy and science fiction area of the store,

Kathy explained the books were alphabetical by author and fled behind

the employee curtain.

   Anita looked up from the computer, “Kathy, what‟s wrong?”

   “Uh, nothing. There‟s a cute guy out there and I got embarrassed,

that‟s all.” She walked over to her cubby and rummaged purposely in her

backpack. She pulled out a pen, smiled at Anita, and took the pen with

her back out into the store proper.

   “Did you find what you were looking for?” She asked the customer.

   “Not exactly,” he replied. “I was looking for the new hardback, „The

Gathering Storm‟ and I don‟t see it here. Is there somewhere else I

should look for new hardbacks?”

   “Let me check the computer,” Kathy said, but she was already looking

up the information. “Ah, it was just released last week, I don‟t think

we‟ve gotten it yet. Do you want me to order it for you or do you want to

check back in a couple days? We should be getting a shipment of books

in later today, I imagine it will be in there. Can I get your phone number

and give you a call, let you know when it comes in?” Kathy placed the

pen she‟d gotten from her backpack and a request form out within reach

for him. There was a whole container of store pens right within sight.

   “Nah, maybe I‟ll just stop back the end of this week? My name‟s

Dave, by the way, Dave Adams.”

   “Adams? I know some Adams,” Kathy said before she thought. She

grinned sheepishly and continued, “But I guess it‟s a pretty common

name. I‟m Kathy, Kathy Hough.” She was too embarrassed by her lame

behavior to add that she was assistant manager of the store.

   Dave laughed a friendly laugh. “Well, nice meeting you Kathy Hough;

will you be here Friday?”

   “Yes, I think so. Nice meeting you too Dave. I‟ll see you then! Have

a good day!” What is with the thinking! Don‟t you KNOW anything,

Kathy, she chided herself.

   Dave left, a few lunchtime browsers came through and then it was

quiet again until the schools let out. A group of three girls came in

dressed in the local prep school uniform and came straight over to Kathy.

The one in the middle asked, “Do you have John Fenimore Cooper‟s

fourth book in The LeatherstockingTales series, The Pathfinder?

   “Uh,” said Kathy. “Yes, we do!” she said more authoritatively. “Did

you want just that book or a collection of all five books in the series?”

She walked across the store, the girls following after her. “Do you each

need a copy or. . .”

   “Oh, no,” the first girl said, “They‟re just my friends. They‟re with me.

I just need the one book, as cheap as you have it, please, the library

ones are all checked out and my history book report is due Friday.”

   Kathy found the book and sold it to the girl quickly and all but shooed

the three out of the store. She went into the back and announced to

Anita that she had to leave now, lied and said her appointment with Edita

had been moved forward half an hour.

   She was too unsettled to stay in the store, what with the Wheel of

Time purchaser, Dave, who looked like Alex; and working on her Cooper

history paper and then having the three girls come in, the one asking for

a Cooper book for a history paper due Friday, the same day Kathy‟s was

due. Come to think of it, one of the girls had worn a cap with the school

patch like a pseudo heraldic device on it, the same patch as on their

blazer pockets.

   Anita turned off the computer and stood. “Sure, Kathy, no problem.

Are you okay? Nothing wrong?” Anita looked concerned. Kathy couldn‟t

look her in the eyes.

   “No, no problem. I‟m sorry I didn‟t think to mention it to you sooner is

all. Well, I‟ll see you in the morning, Anita, have a good afternoon.” She

glanced at Anita and gave a small wave and smile but quickly turned and

went out the employee door, cutting off any further good-byes.

             his time Gyro was where she expected him to be. She sped

             back to the little two bedroom cottage she and Jan shared on

             the Webster estate.   The Webster‟s‟ main house was a mile

across the fields, there was a gravel and dirt road one could travel

between on but neither the Websters nor she and Jan used it or bothered

one another; everyone communicated by letter or phone. The lease was

in Jan‟s name but Kathy had met the Websters and they were quite nice,

if a bit formal. It was a little like renting from a not-very-well-known

friend‟s parents.

   Kathy grabbed the split bowl of grapes from the refrigerator and a slice

of cheese to take back and eat in her room. On the way down the hall,

she turned up the thermostat; she felt a bit chilly. She knew Jan would

complain about the utility bill but she‟d worry about that later in the

month when the next one came.

   Kathy dropped her backpack on her desk chair and fell on the bed.

The clock radio read two-fifteen. Good. She didn‟t have to be at Edita‟s

until three-thirty and it was only a twenty minute drive. She had almost

an hour to relax, think what she was going to do.

   She still couldn‟t decide whether to pick the other three words now,

before Edita or after, when she got home this evening. She finally
decided to pick them now but not look at them; put them in her backpack

and maybe open them during her session while she told Edita about

yesterday and today and the whole experiment. Edita had Jungian

training, she‟d enjoy the story and Kathy wouldn‟t have to talk about Jan

or Alex or her Florida vacationing stepmother.

   Kathy closed her eyes and picked 3 slips of paper from the bowl and

then started to get off the bed and to the backpack on the chair with her

eyes still closed. “You can open your eyes now, Idiot; just don‟t look at

your hands,” she told herself. She thrust the now-crumpled slips of paper

into a small side pocket of the backpack, grabbed her clipboard with lined

paper, a pen, and the bowl of grapes and sat back, cross-legged, on the

bed. Wedging the clipboard against her legs she used one hand to pick

grapes and started a list with the other.


   1. Daylight savings to regular time, picked “clock” and “rules”

      as two of the first words

   2. Sunday and preacher doing Ecclesiastes 3 list about “time”

   3. Mr. Clock Radio Jan smile and leave

   4. Simon and Garfunkel “Hazy Shade of Winter” song about

      time coming on when I was thinking about it all

   5. Baseball cap with medieval heraldic patch and Anita

      saying “put a lid on it” and then Caroline having left her

      princess headdress, kind of medieval, there and the whole

      exchange with Amy about how I looked like Robin Hood, my

      love of history, etc.

   6. John bringing up how Mom use to make me help and I

      would say I couldn’t because of homework and she’d get

      mad just like in the story between Jess and her mother (can

      see my putting it in the story but not John bringing it up?)

   “Oh, no!” Kathy stared at the empty grape bowl in horror. She hadn‟t

been paying attention again and she‟d eaten all the grapes.    Jan is going

to kill me for sure! She thought.

   Three o‟clock. Ten minutes before she had to leave for Edita‟s but she

isn‟t sure she wants to trust herself not to get absorbed in what she‟s

doing. She took a history book out of her knapsack to make room for the

clipboard; she could work on it some more if she was early at Edita‟s.

   Maybe she could stop by the grocery store for more grapes and get

home before Jan.     Kathy put the empty grape bowl in her knapsack too.

If worse came to worser she could put the grocery store grapes in the

bowl in her car and carry them into the house, pretend she took the bowl

and grapes with her to therapy.

   Kathy pulled the clipboard out of her backpack and continued

scribbling at the red lights.

   7.    Pulling the word “history” from the bowl and her paper on

         Cooper being due Friday

   8.    The guy that looked like Alex wanting “Wheel of Time” and

         wheel one of the morning’s words and “time” still harking

         back to yesterday.

   9.    The girl wanting the Cooper book and for a history paper

         also due Friday (instead of literature)

   10. The school cap and blazers with the patches like the Adams’

         family reunion caps


   She arrived in Edita‟s parking lot only having had one person honk

their horn at her because she hadn‟t been paying enough attention to

notice the lights had changed. She sat for a moment, Mr. Car Clock said

she was ten or fifteen minutes early; she smiled at both being early and

her new friendship with clocks, and decided to look at the three new

words here and collect her thoughts so she could try to tell Edita about

the whole thing and make sense. Kathy knew she had trouble staying on

a subject, jumped all around and drove her listeners crazy; that was part

of the reason she was in therapy. She wanted to get control of her


   She dug into the little pocket and pulled out all three crumpled bits of

paper and smoothed them on her leg. “Neighbor,” “Path,” and “Money,”

she read. Oh. The school girl had wanted “The Pathfinder.” That made

three of today‟s words used, two of them on book titles. Maybe she was

supposed to read those books. She‟d read The Pathfinder, that‟s part of

the reason she‟d picked Cooper to write about, she‟d loved the

Leatherstocking Tales as a kid. Maybe she was supposed to change the

thrust of her paper so it used themes from that book?

   As Kathy got her stuff, locked the car, and entered the building, she

wondered what would happen if she picked more words? It seemed like

with six words instead of five, more was happening? Actually, six instead

of ten, she picked twice yesterday. And the whole cap/princess

headdress, Robin Hood, and medieval thing was almost spookier than Mr.

Clock Radio and the Master Clock because it wasn‟t as clear, was more

dream-like and she understood it less.

   She only had to sit a moment before Edita opened her door and

ushered her into the therapy room. Kathy started talking before she was

even properly seated.

   “You wouldn‟t believe the last two days I‟ve had. See this?” She pulled

the grape bowl out of her backpack. “I was so out of it I ate all the

grapes! Now I have to try and remember to stop by the store on the way

home from here or Jan will kill me; they were her grapes.”

   Edita didn‟t say anything, just showed an interested, amused smile.

   “I‟m studying synchronicity. Look,” she said, thrusting the clipboard

with the list she‟d been making at her therapist, “really weird things are


   The therapist glanced at the list but didn‟t take it. “Why don‟t you tell

me about it?” she requested quietly. Her calmness seemed to dampen

some of Kathy‟s object waving exuberance.
   Kathy settled back in her chair and looked down at the clipboard, she

felt a bit shy and embarrassed. Slowly and carefully she put the grape

bowl back into her backpack and put the backpack on the floor, then

picked it up again and put the clipboard in it too.

   “I finished a really good book Saturday night; it was the second book

in a two-part series? But anyway, I hate it when books end and I can‟t

stay feeling that way.”

   “What way?” Edita asked. “How do you feel when you are reading a

good book?”

   “Like I‟m part of the book. Like I‟m the main character or character I

identify with and like I‟ve done the things they‟ve done or know the

lessons they‟ve learned and have all the friends they have and am strong

like them.”

   “But we don‟t live in books, Kathy, they‟re not real. People don‟t go to

the bathroom or have a boring or bad day that lasts a whole day in


   “I know that. But you asked me how I feel and I‟m just telling you

that. It feels good and I want to feel like that more. Anyway, remember

that book about synchronicity and symbols the Jungian therapist wrote
that I gave you? I was thinking about that book and about how the

author thinks synchronicious things happen all the time, like as many

dreams we have at night and daydreams throughout the day, like that,

and I wondered if I could figure out how to notice the ones that happen

to me more.

   “And that key in the gutter at my parents that I found and then went

looking all day for what it meant? It fit their front door but didn‟t turn so

I went looking for what it was the “key” to and it made my day an

adventure and I even found the answer to something but I don‟t

remember what it was now. But I want a way to make how books make

me feel when I‟m reading them and how exciting that is to be like when

I‟m living every day.”

   “So what did you figure out?”

   “Well, that bowl that I brought in that Jan made me with the

checkerboard heart on it because you taught me how to check my heart?

I put a bunch of words in it, mostly nouns I think, and decided to pick five

out every day and write a story using them and then later in the day and

week I‟d look for things from the story. Kind of like figuring out the

symbols in a dream only backwards and while you‟re awake. Backwards

because you‟d be making up the story yourself instead of your
unconscious doing it but since it‟s a story and you‟re making it up, it‟s

unconscious too, just in a different way.”

   “How creative!” her therapist said, warmly. “And did you write a story

yesterday or today yet?”

   “I started two and weird things happened because of the first one and

Jan got kind of mad and the second one wasn‟t very clear and I couldn‟t

figure it out but I don‟t want to talk as much about them because I didn‟t

finish the stories and woke up late for work this morning so I decided to

pick three words before I went to work and three more words before I

came here.” Saying that, Kathy pulled her knapsack back onto her lap

and pulled out the three words on the crumpled bits of paper and handed

them to Edita.

   This time, Edita took what she offered. “Money, neighbor, and path,”

she read out loud.

   “This morning‟s were „substance,‟ „wheel,‟ and „history‟ and the one

about history reminded me my history paper is due on Friday and since

it‟s Monday and slow at the bookstore, I was able to work on it some

there.” She didn‟t tell Edita that she had done it on Anita‟s time.

   “But Kathy, that‟s just coincidence, not synchronicity. Don‟t you think

you might be reading a little too much into this?”

   “But my paper is on James Fenimore Cooper and first a guy came into

the bookstore and asked for Robert Jordan‟s latest book in the wheel of

time series , his real name is James Rigney, the author that is, not the

guy who wanted the book, his name is Dave Adams and that‟s another

thing, but wait!”

   “Slow down, Kathy, we have plenty of time. I‟m not going anywhere.”

Edita smiled her warm smile again and Kathy just sat and took a couple

calming breaths.

   “One of the words this morning was wheel. Yesterday one of the

words was clock and all kinds of time references happened a lot of the

day. So this guy, Dave, wanted wheel of time and his last name turned

out to be Adams and I named the family in my second story yesterday,

Adams. Then later some private school girls game in and one of them

wanted Cooper‟s book, The Pathfinder and path is one of the words this

afternoon and I didn‟t even know it yet. In the story yesterday where the

characters were Adamses, they were going to a family reunion and got

baseball caps in the mail with the Adams family crest on it which is stars

on a red cross and these girls blazers and one of them was wearing a cap

that had patches like that too.”

   “That does sound surprising, but what meaning does it all have for

you? To be synchronistic, it has to be important to you.”

   “That‟s what I don‟t know. It‟s just that it seems like more and more

is happening the more words I pick.”

   “I think it‟s a little like when you tell someone not to think about pink

elephants, how then all they can think about is pink elephants? Or when

you‟re looking to buy a certain car or a certain color car it suddenly

seems like those are the only kind on the road?”

   “But I feel like there‟s a message in there for me somewhere; that I‟m

supposed to read the latest Wheel of Time book or use more of the

meaning of The Pathfinder in my Cooper research paper or something.”

   “Kathy, you have a wonderful imagination but sometimes that seems

to be what gets you in trouble. Imagination is like any other mental tool,

the more you use it, the better it becomes. But I think we want you to

practice using your paying-attention tool now instead for a bit? What was

the first story you started about and why did Jan get „kind of mad‟?”

   Kathy was disappointed that her therapist wasn‟t as interested in all

the weird things happening as she was but trusted Edita and knew she‟d

probably learn something if she did things her way.

   “Well, I woke up really early and because it was Sunday and daylight

savings ending and Jan not sleeping well and all that I was real quiet and

picked the first five words from the bowl and like I said, they included

clock and rule. So, I started writing about this girl, Emily, who was

woken up by her clock radio for school or work or something with a

clown‟s horn or squawk or something really obnoxious and the DJ said

something silly about the clock saying it was time to get up and Emily

talked back to it, told it clocks couldn‟t talk and it was just an obnoxious

DJ being obnoxious but then the clock asks Emily, what do you mean that

clocks can‟t talk and is rude to her asking her what she knows about it,

etcetera and Emily can‟t believe the clock is talking to her but reaches

over and pushes the button to turn it off but nothing happens and it

makes Mr. Clock Radio really angry and he threatens to tell the Master

Clock on her and then she gets really scared and pushed another button

and tries to change the radio station and that‟s when things get weird.”

Kathy stopped her recital and just looked at Edita.

   “Go on,” she urges. “What happened?”

   “I was at my desk writing one minute and Jan was standing in my

doorway yelling at me to turn the radio off and that I had woken her up

and I couldn‟t do anything so she came and yanked the radio cord out of

the wall and yelled at me some more.” There was no way Kathy was

going to tell anyone, even her therapist, about number three, telling Mr.

Clock Radio she was sorry she had offended him and if he‟d just make Jan

smile and leave and she‟d have Emily make it up to him.

   “You two had a fight?”

   “Well, not exactly. Jan decided she had to get up early anyway

because her boyfriend, Tom, was coming to pick her up early to go out

for the day and she just made me promise to be more careful. But before

she yanked the cord out of the wall, there was a preacher on, since it was

early Sunday morning, and he was reading the part in Ecclesiastes about

a time for this and a time for that, that whole piece that Simon and

Garfunkel sing in their song, „Turn, Turn, Turn‟ and then later, when I

started writing my second story I had put a Simon and Garfunkel CD on

and they were singing „Hazy Shade of Winter‟ that‟s about time, too.”

   “The preacher was probably talking about time because it was the end

of daylight savings and people tend to think about it more at that time.”

She smiled at having to use the word “time” in her explanation about

time. “Again, I think you are attuned to the word „time‟ is why you

noticed the other. Think of all the other songs that played that didn‟t

have the word time in them and how you didn‟t notice them when you

were writing,” she said, reasonably. “So, do you agree with Jan that you

should „be more careful‟? What do you think you could do to help

yourself remember?”

   “Yeah, yeah. I guess I could find an object that helps me remember

to surface for air every now and then. My parents have a system where if

my father tells a joke too many times, my stepmother makes a cross with

her two fingers, kind of like you would warding off a vampire, like this,”

Kathy showed her. “When he sees that it reminds him he‟s already told

that joke to those people. But I don‟t have another person there to help

catch me but maybe I can carry a balloon around or something, remind

me of “air” and that I should come up for air and look around and pay

attention, like a deer in the forest.”

   “That‟s a good idea. Or, maybe you could write one of your stories

with the words that will remind you; instead of being about time, you

could decide to write one with the word „air‟ in it. Could you do

something like that?” she asked.

   “I guess so,” Kathy replied, feeling a bit like the air had been let out of

her. Well, at least Edita didn‟t complaining that she was writing stories

about the words. She‟d just have to know what she knew for herself.

She knew the words were important and telling her something different.

   “It‟s time to stop.” Edita said, putting her hands on her knees and

leaning forward.

   Kathy had forgotten to write out her check so pulled out her

checkbook to do that quickly now. It always embarrassed her the longer

she stayed after Edita said the session was over. Edita didn‟t rush her

but she felt rushed anyway.

   She felt both much better and much worse when she got in her car

and started back home. She tried to think about synchronicity and the

words she‟d already chosen and what had happened as a result of them

instead of feeling disappointed that Edita didn‟t agree with her analysis of

what was happening. She‟d write a story with air in it and figure out a

way to show Edita there was more to it than she thought, Kathy vowed.

             athy was proud of herself for remembering to stop at the

             grocery store and get the grapes. When she got back to the

             cottage, she saw Jan‟s car wasn‟t there so just carried

everything in, washed the grapes and let them dry a bit before putting

them in the bowl and putting the bowl back in the refrigerator in the

same spot from which she had taken it that morning. She looked at it

critically and realized there were a few too many grapes so she broke off

a bunch, grabbed a paper towel, and took the extra back with her

backpack to her room. I better eat these before Jan gets home, she

thought, destroy any evidence. She grinned as she dropped her

backpack on her desk and then, holding the paper towel around the

grapes and that whole package against her chest, flopped backwards onto

her bed.

   She was still thinking about the words and thought about picking some

more and starting a story with them and “air” in it but, eating the grapes,

she remembered there was leftovers from John and Elyse‟s last night and

she could get them ready to warm up, set the table, and have everything

ready for when Jan got home so they could eat. She didn‟t think Jan had

mentioned being out tonight; they usually were both home for dinner on


   She finished eating the grapes and buried the stems in her trashcan

between some papers so there‟d be no chance of Jan accidentally

discovering them.   She went into the living room and turned the radio

portion of Jan‟s entertainment system on, she usually didn‟t mind that,

and continued to think over her day as she set the little dining room


   Hmm. She‟d have to work some more on her Cooper paper tonight.

Just then the back door opened and Jan was home.

   “Hi, Kat, how was your day? It was your therapy day wasn‟t it? How‟s

old Edita? Oh, good, I see you‟re setting the table like you have a plan

for dinner, I‟m starved,” Jan illustrated this last statement by opening the

refrigerator and standing in front of it gazing at the various quick snack


   “It was an interesting day. I‟ll tell you more over dinner. How was


   “Huh? The grapes have changed color. I deliberately bought black

ones for a change, and these are red.”

   Kathy‟s body froze in place but her mind was all over, like the contents

of a blender turned on high with no lid. “Grapes?” she tried to say,
innocently. But her mouth wasn‟t working right and she stuttered

slightly, making her sound like Tony the Tiger, “grrr apes?”.

   “Kathy? What‟s with the grapes?” asked Jan, looking annoyed. “These

aren‟t the same ones that I bought Saturday, are they?”

   Kathy didn‟t say anything at first. Just walked over to beside Jan in

front of the refrigerator and took out the containers with left over hot dog

lasagna and the potato ham chowder. She put them both in the

microwave and started to push the buttons for time but Jan spoke again.

   “Don‟t put them both together like that! I swear, Kathy, I do not

know what you use for a brain sometimes. Can‟t you see these are

different sized shapes and containers and, I don‟t know what‟s in them,

but I bet they have different consistencies too. They can‟t both cook at

the same setting!” She yanked out the smaller container of Kathy‟s

lasagna and put it on the counter. “What‟s in this one still in the

microwave,” she barked?

   “Potato Ham chowder for you. Elyse made it.” Kathy could breathe

again now that the subject wasn‟t the grapes and Jan was lecturing her

the way she was use to Jan lecturing her.

  Jan set the timer and began the chowder warming. “And this one?”

She pointed to the smaller, rectangular container on the counter.

  “Hot dog lasagna for me,” Kathy answered.

  “You weren‟t even going to ask which one I might prefer were you? Or

split them in two or anything. Other people have their own tastes and

ideas, Kathy, you can‟t just decide you know what they want.”

  “You‟re welcome!” Kathy rejoined, sarcastically. It would have made

her stepmother proud. “They‟re mine and I‟m sharing them with you and

no, I thought I knew you‟d like the chowder so I thought I was giving you

a treat and you‟d be thankful, not give me a lecture like you‟re my damn

mother or something!”

  “Well, the grapes were mine and I did not intend to share them with

you and you can keep your chowder and I told you to quit swearing when

you were around me!” Saying that, Jan turned and left the kitchen for

her own room where she slammed her door behind her.

  Like that scene was any better than my saying “damn,” thought Kathy,

trying not to cry. The microwave beeped to let her know the chowder

was ready. Kathy took it out and dumped the container in the sink,

turned on the faucet and watched it flow down into the garbage disposal.
She put the lasagna in the microwave and put it on for two minutes, the

time she had been going to put both on for if Jan hadn‟t interfered.

   When the microwave beeped this time, she took out the container, put

the container on a larger dinner plate and carried the whole thing to her

place at the dining room table. She took off the container lid, gave it a

half-hearted stir and started spooning the luke-warm mess into her

mouth, staring at the Monet picture of Sailboats at the Basin at

Argenteuil. Like most everything else in the little house, it belonged to


   Jan came out of her room, through the living room where she turned

off the radio and then into the dining room. “I didn‟t want to tell you like

this, but I‟m moving,” she said firmly.

   Kathy just looked at her.

   “I got a new client at work, „Wheel of Change‟,” she continued. “You

know, the big, nationwide, substance abuse clinic chain?”

   Kathy blinked. There was “wheel” again and “substance,” two of

today‟s words.

   “I got promoted, am a top account rep now, have been working for

this for several months. I‟m making a lot of money now, Kat, it‟s not

what I want most but these things happen when you start working hard

on your goals.”

   Oh, listen to her rub it in! I have goals! Now a tear or two did slip

down Kathy‟s cheek as she glared at the Monet. She didn‟t look at Jan,

wouldn‟t give her the satisfaction.

   “Anyway, I bought a condo a couple weeks ago and Sunday took Tom

to see it. I asked him to move in with me and he said „yes‟.” Jan sat

down and reach an arm across the table toward Kathy. “Kat, look at me.

I didn‟t mean to hurt you, honest.”

   Kathy did looked at her then, the tears stopped and a look of anger

took over. “You think I‟m crying because you hurt me?” she snarled.

“Forget it, Jan. Congratulations on your success. I hope you and Tom

are very happy.” Kathy stood up abruptly and took the plate to the

kitchen, pouring the rest of the uneaten chowder in the sink on top of the

lasagna. Then she ripped a paper towel off the roll, opened the

refrigerator, picked up the bowl of grapes, and took them with her back

to her room, shutting the door quietly after herself.

   Kathy sat down heavily in the rocking chair in the corner, the bowl of

grapes on her lap. The tears really began to start falling then. She sat,

crying and eating grapes, thinking about the last two days. Edita

wouldn‟t help her. Jan was leaving and she‟d have to go to the Webster‟s

and ask if she could take over the rent. She didn‟t even know how much

the rent was! Jan asked her for 250 dollars a month but it could be twice

or even three or four times that. Jan had always made more than she

had, had found the wonderful little cottage and made the arrangements

with the Websters. For all Kathy knew, it might just be another way for

Jan to feel superior to her, to ask her for money like she was paying her

way when the rent was more than she could afford. Well, she had to find


   She had to work on her Cooper paper. What about The Pathfinder and

the high school girl doing her paper on Cooper too? She reached over

and snagged her backpack and got the clipboard and pen out.

   7.   Pulling the word “history” from the bowl and her paper on

        Cooper being due Friday

   8.   The guy that looked like Alex wanting “Wheel of Time” and

        wheel one of the morning’s words and “time” still harking

        back to yesterday.

   9.   The girl wanting the Cooper book and for a history paper

        also due Friday (instead of literature)

   10. The school cap and blazers with the patches like the Adams’

        family reunion caps

   11. The “Wheel” group “substance” abuse clinics

   12. Jan making more “money”

   13. Having to go to the Websters, her “neighbors” to see if they’d

        rent the cottage to her

   That was all six words she‟d picked today, “substance,” “wheel,”

“history,” “path,” “neighbor,” “money.” Looks like lucky 13

synchronicities on the list too, she thought, sourly.

   Well, looks like the game is truly begun and I should follow-through. I

don‟t know what five and six mean; the whole cap, fairy princess

headdress hat, heraldic emblem, the Adams reunion story, and John

bringing up helping in the kitchen versus doing dishes like I put in the

story, but I think there‟s something else going on here than just

coincidence or pink elephants or red cars as Edita thinks.

   Kathy put the clipboard, pen, and nearly empty grape bowl on the

desk beside her and got up and walked down the slot between her bed

and the wall to her night table where the bowl of words was and brought

that back with her to the rocking chair.

   She wanted all the help she could get so decided her first word would

be “air” and she‟d write about coming-up-for, just to keep Edita dealt in

as her heart wanted so badly. Thinking about not having Edita on her

side and now, no longer having Jan, the tears started again. But still she

put her hand in and drew her next word, “story.”

   She had to put the bowl on the desk. She was crying so hard it was

making a mess of her face and hands. She was trembling and afraid

she‟d sob and Jan would feel sorry for her, knock on her door with fake

concern. She didn‟t need that anymore. The spark of anger was like a

splash of cold water to her face. She mopped up the remains of her tears

with the paper towel and, curiosity getting the better of her, picked the

next word, “school.”

   That‟s it! No more tonight, she decided. There‟s something here but I

don‟t understand it. I‟ll write a little story specifically for Edita about

“air,” and now, tonight, I‟ll get to continuing work on my paper for school.

I‟ll go to work tomorrow morning and stop at the Websters on the way

home, see what‟s what with the rent and if I can stay in the cottage,

maybe get another roommate. Maybe Amy would move in here with me.

She still lives with her parents. What time is it? Seven thirty. Good, I‟ll

start the story and then work on my paper hard until ten, go to bed early

and sleep well. I‟ll wake early, remember my dream, and put THAT into

the story for Edita. That idea made her smile.

                                The Balloon

         Margaret loved balloons.          She was only three but

     she knew when she was entitled to balloons.           She

     demanded one when her father took her to the zoo or

     circus and her mother always made sure there were

     plenty for her birthday.

         Margaret‟s favorite color was green and

     sometimes, when she had been particularly good,

     Margaret‟s mother would stop by the Dollar Store and

     get her a green balloon just for being good.

         Today was one of those days.          Margaret had been

     especially cheerful all day, had not had a single

     tantrum or even fussed when she got frustrated but

     had used her words instead        to ask for help.

  That was enough on the story. It was about using words which

indirectly was what she and Edita were working on. Her mother‟s brain

tumor when Kathy was only two and problems with her speech had

meant when Kathy got anxious or excited or otherwise felt a strong

emotion she too could have trouble with words and have trouble making

sense.   Another therapist she‟d had use to say, “I don‟t hear any nouns,”
when she‟d get all tangled. She found that helpful as it was a clue and

she was good at following directions.

   If someone were there to catch her when her words started running

away with her and point that out, Kathy could stop and take the time to

think exactly what she wanted to say and then very slowly and

deliberately say it and the other person would understand. But Kathy

also had the problem of not seeing things the way other people saw

them. She suspected that was the problem between she and Edita now;

if she could get Edita to understand what she was doing with the words

and synchronicity, things might be easier.   Sometimes though, Kathy

had trouble understanding when she wasn‟t seeing clearly and should try

to let go of her point of view and try to understand Edita‟s even though it

was her therapy and Self that she needed to understand in the end.

   Eight forty-five. Kathy had been explaining to herself and Edita in her

head too long. She needed to switch gears and work on Cooper. She put

the bowl of words back on her night stand, the papers with stories back in

their special folder and into her knapsack and pulled out her literature

and social history books and opened the paper saved on the computer.

She refreshed her memory rereading her thesis statement and then the

last paragraph she‟d written and began to write. I‟m good at this, she


              uesday morning Kathy woke feeling refreshed and got to

              work early. It was an uneventful day in the store, maybe a

              little quiet, and Anita shoo‟d her out a bit early. That was

fine with Kathy, she wanted to go to the rental office of the apartments

across the street from the Mall, try to get an idea how much apartments

rented for.

   Closer to, the apartments looked a little seedy, maybe even a little

scary. The brick was tired looking, its red too dirty, paint was peeling

from the door frames, and there was a lot of trash in corners with the

dead leaves the wind had herded there. Kathy thought she noticed an

eviction notice through railings on the second floor.

   There were only three floors; the complex had “garden apartments”

as part of its name. There were a couple of broken children‟s toys in an

all dirt area bounded by sidewalks. Kids playing there keep any grass

from being able to grow, she guessed. There was a damp indentation,

with half a colorful plastic super hero‟s cup stuck in it too, that she could

imagine was a lovely mud puddle after rain. But most of the inner

grounds were already shadowed by the height of the building. Could be
cooler in summer, she thought, but with no trees, seems a bit dreary to


   The rental office when she entered, looked like a government office,

equally as run-down and seedy- looking as the exterior of the

apartments. There was a high, scarred, wood counter separating the

employees from the public and the public side had only a sad, Army

green, cheap, daybed-like couch, heavily stained, on which to sit if they

had to with a barely adequate coffee table in front one could use to put

papers down on if one had to fill out forms.

   “May I help you?” asked an older woman, Kathy would swear was

wearing a house dress like those her great aunt Stella use to wear.

   “Do you have one bedroom apartments available? And how much are

they? Is there anything smaller than a one bedroom apartment, I don‟t

really need that much space but I guess I‟d like to know about all the

apartments you have in case I get a roommate. Do you have a

brochure?” Come up for air, Kathy! The poor woman will be hard

pressed to know what question to answer first, you‟re all over the place

and contradictory. “I‟m sorry! Just tell me whatever you want,” Kathy

grinned, shrugging her shoulders and extending her hands, palm up, in a

placating, I-know-but-what-can-I-do, manner.
   The woman just looked bored or tired, didn‟t smile. “They only have

one, two, and three bedrooms here; only one, one bedroom available

now, it‟s six hundred with an equal security deposit and no two or three

beds, but there‟s waiting lists you can get on if you want. No bro-sure.”

The woman had spoken quickly with an accent Kathy couldn‟t identify and

Kathy had only understood some of what was said.

   “Oh, well thank you,” Kathy said with as much dignity as she could

while trying to turn and run out of the room at the same time. Six

hundred! That was more than half of her take-home pay. Assuming that

a two bedroom would maybe cost two or three hundred more and with a

roommate her share would be around four to five hundred, that was still

at the top of what she wanted to pay and those particular apartments

weren‟t worth it. She hadn‟t thought of a security deposit either and she

didn‟t have that much saved up. Better apartments are going to cost

more too, she worried.

   It was after five o‟clock when Kathy pulled up in Gyro to the side

entrance of the Webster mansion. She hoped they got off work early;

she didn‟t even know if they worked being as rich as she assumed they

were. Kathy hugged herself to wipe her suddenly damp palms off against

her jacket sleeves. She was proud of having broken her habit of wiping

sweaty palm on pants; if they weren‟t jeans, they often showed damp

handprints and, she‟d even had one incidence that had left a stain on a

pair of linen trousers.

   The woman who answered Kathy‟s knock looked a great deal like Anita

Rogers, Kathy‟s boss. “Mrs. Webster?” Kathy supposed.

   “Kathy Hough, isn‟t it? Jan‟s friend and roommate? Please, call me

Roberta,” she said, warmly, stepping aside and ushering Kathy into a

cozy den office where it was obvious she had been working before Kathy


   “Oh, I‟m sorry, I didn‟t mean to interrupt you while you were working.

I thought this might be the kitchen or something,” she explained, lamely.

   “That‟s quite all right. I was just getting ready to take a break

anyway, make myself a cup of tea, could I make one for you too? We

can talk in the kitchen since you have such an interest in seeing it,” Mrs.

Webster--no, Roberta, teased, gently.

   “What can I do for you, Kathy,” she asked as she put the tea kettle on

to boil.

   “Oh, I love your Monet!” Kathy responded, looking at the kitchen wall

behind Mrs. Webster. “We have his „Sailboats at Argenteuil‟ print in the

dining room.”

   “I‟m sorry,” Kathy blushed in embarrassment and shifted her gaze to

Mrs. Webster‟s smiling face. “You see,” she began again, shifting her

eyes away again, “Jan is moving and, well, I was wondering if I could rent

the cottage?” She finished in a rush.

   “Oh, dear!” Roberta Webster looked truly distressed. “My husband

and I just assumed you were leaving with Jan. I‟m really sorry, but our

daughter and granddaughter are coming in a couple weeks; I think Jan

said she could be out by the weekend before Thanksgiving, and they

wanted to move in then.”

   The tea kettle gave a cheerful whistle to say the water was hot enough

for the tea and Kathy took the quiet while Mrs. Webster had her back

turned to fix the tea to get her feelings under control so she wouldn‟t

upset her hostess any further.   Jan hadn‟t told her this part, that she‟d

told the Websters when she‟d be leaving. Or, maybe she had, now that

Kathy thought of it, it was an obvious conclusion to telling them she was

moving, telling them when. Kathy was the one who hadn‟t thought to ask

Jan when she was moving and if Jan had talked to the Websters. Was

she going to be irresponsible all her life, she wondered.

   Roberta put the cups of tea on the table and they both sat

simultaneously. “Have you other options you‟re looking into,” she asked?

   “I work at the Mall so I looked at those apartments across the street

today too but didn‟t care for them,” Kathy answered, evenly. “I will

probably ask one of the women I work with if she‟d like to look for a place

together with me; I think she‟s looking for a place too.”

   Kathy wasn‟t that uncomfortable but drank her tea as quickly as she

could anyway and then stood and took the cup and saucer to the counter

next to the sink. “Well, thank you for the tea. I guess I‟ll get back to the

cottage and start packing,” she smiled weakly. “I don‟t want to keep you

any longer. Thank you again.” She extended her hand which Roberta

took and held for a moment.

   “I‟m really sorry for the misunderstanding, Kathy. Let me know if

there‟s any way Robert and I can help you. I‟m sure my daughter Robin

can wait until the weekend following Thanksgiving to move into the

cottage if you get in a bind with moving that soon,” she offered.

   “Oh, no, it‟s no problem! I‟ll bring my key by on Sunday the twenty-

second, if that‟s all right? If worse comes to worser, I can move back

home with my parents for awhile.”

   “Worser?” Roberta smiled broadly. “You use „worser‟? A woman after

my own heart. Do you know when I got married I was going to answer,

“for better or worser” when giving my vows but I chickened out at the

last minute. I love some of those old, archaic words, they sound better

to me, less harsh.” Mrs. Webster gave Kathy‟s hand a final little shake

and then released it. “Sunday the twenty-second will be fine for bringing

by the key; I look forward to seeing you again, Kathy.”

   “Me, too,” Kathy said and then colored. “I like the old words. Well,

thanks again,” she said as she opened the outside door. She gave one

more little wave before turning and running down the steps to her car.

Roberta stood in the door, gave her a last wave after she got in the car

and then closed the door. Kathy sat for a moment before she started up

the car and trundled down the gravel and dirt road between the large

house and small cottage.

             hough later than usual getting home, Kathy was still there

             before Jan. She wasn‟t even sure anymore about Jan‟s

             schedule. Now that she knew they had to be out in a couple

weeks, that changed a lot of things. Luckily, only the furniture in her

bedroom was Kathy‟s, and a few odds and ends throughout the rest of

the house. The crock pot in the kitchen was hers and, maybe the

toaster? She couldn‟t remember.

   She had lots of cloth recycle bags from grocery stores and museums

she‟d visited, she collected them. She found one in the bottom of her

closet and took it out to the living room. Might as well separate out her

music from Jan‟s.   They didn‟t have a shared TV; Jan had a small one in

her room but rarely used it. Neither of them were big on movies.

   Kathy had only just begun working when the front door opened and

Jan and Tom came in carrying several empty boxes. “Hey,” she grunted

noncommittally. “You all going to do some packing? I was just sorting

the CD‟s.”

   “Hi, Kathy,” Tom said. “Yeah, we thought we get some of the unused

things out of the way. Hey, you all want to order a pizza later? I can run

down and get us some beer or soda if you all don‟t have any in your

   Kathy liked Tom. He worked at Kettler Pharmaceuticals too, in the

accounting department. The two of them had been on a couple dates but

neither was that interested in the other and when Jan started working at

the same company, Kathy had introduced the two of them and they‟d

been together ever since.

   “That sounds like a plan,” Jan answered. “Kat and I will get started

here and you can check the refrigerator and get us whatever isn‟t there.”

She smiled, kissed his cheek, and handed him a twenty dollar bill she‟d

fished out of her jeans.

   “When‟d you all get off?” Kathy asked. “I didn‟t realize you‟d been

home but you obviously were seein‟s how you‟re not dressed for work.

Observant aren‟t I?”

   They heard Tom leave by the kitchen door. “I didn‟t go to work today,

had a Randy appointment in the morning and then met Tom for lunch and

then we went and got the boxes and looked at renting a truck this

weekend. I‟m really sorry, Kathy.” Kathy was glad Jan stopped there.

   “That‟s okay. I looked at the apartments opposite the Mall and then

stopped by the Websters and talked to Roberta. She‟s really nice, isn‟t

she? She said her daughter can put off moving in until the weekend

following Thanksgiving if we need more time.” This wasn‟t strictly true

but Kathy wanted to give Jan the impression that Roberta may have

given her more information than she‟d given Jan.

   “Oh? Good. Tom and I got a truck for the weekend and I think I‟ll be

almost completely out of here by Sunday night,” she said casually.

   Oh, great, Kathy thought, I‟ll be wandering around an empty house for

a week or two, no dishes, music, or places to sit other than in my room.

Night time will really suck with no sense of anyone else around if I need


   Jan had been helping her sort the CD‟s and now they both tried to pick

up the same CD at the same time. Kathy let go of it. “I didn‟t know you

had any Mancini,” she commented.

   Jan blushed, looked at the CD, and then handed it to Kathy. “Sorry, I

thought it was Manhattan Transfer.”

   Tom came back and handed out beers. Then he and Jan took boxes

and went in to tackle the kitchen. Kathy could hear them talking and

laughing and she felt lonely, left out. Maybe she should call Alex and see

if she could patch things up with him. No, he‟d probably think she was

just using him and he‟d probably be right. She sighed.
   Finished with the CD‟s, Kathy dug around in her bedroom closet and

found the box the crock pot came in and then went to the kitchen to pack

it up.

   “Oh!” Jan said, surprised, when she saw Kathy with the box, “I forgot

the crock pot‟s yours, I just packed it in my things.” Quickly she looked

through the contents of two or three boxes and finally found the crock pot

which she hauled out and handed over to Kathy with a triumphant smile.

   “A box in hand is worth two that are packed,” Kathy declaimed, middle

finger raised high instead of index to criticize the chauvinistic use of

“bird” to mean “girl” in the original medieval poem.     I bet Mrs. Webster

would appreciate my Meanings and Origins paper I wrote since she liked

my use of “worser”. “Is the toaster mine or yours,” she asked Jan.

   “Here, you take it.” Jan unplugged it and handed it to Kathy. “Kat,

you have to see our new place,” she enthused.      “It has a grill feature,

part of the stove? We don‟t need a toaster!”

   You know, the more I listen, the more I wonder how Jan and I stayed

friends, much less lived together, Kathy asked herself. She tells me I

don‟t pay attention to what I‟m saying but here she is with come see

“our” new placing it to my face and magnanimously giving me the toaster

only because she doesn‟t need it!

   “That sounds great,” Kathy said mildly, as she put the toaster back

down on another counter, near the stove. “Is it okay if I leave this here?

I think I‟ll probably need it the next week or two still.” I might as well

not even be here for all Jan is thinking about me. Sorry, my ass!

   Kathy put the bag of CD‟s and the crock pot box back in her closet.

Jan and Tom were carrying things to Tom‟s Jeep. He must already be

moved to their new place. They must have done that on Sunday or

maybe that‟s why Jan was a bit late last night, Kathy didn‟t know or care.

She looked around her room and got her suitcase out of her closet; might

as well pack some of her clothes she wouldn‟t be using.

   While she packed, Kathy started thinking of the balloon story she was

writing for Edita. She decided Margaret would have a favorite green

balloon, would try to keep it and talk to it, kind of like Tom Hanks with

“Wilson” in “Cast Away.” She‟d name it, “Green One”.

   Kathy had had a dream a couple years ago where a beautiful woman

she couldn‟t help loving, wearing a flowing, green velvet cape and whom

she referred to the the “Green Lady” had been playing chess with a man

in a marble hall and waiting for her and had told her, very seriously, “I

have to leave you now, for your own good” and then walked away into a

desert area and Kathy had tried to follow but been unable to and had

awakened crying. She figured the Green Lady represented her mother or

a mother or mentor figure and that it was time for her to grow up and

stand on her own two feet. But she couldn‟t forget the Green Lady and

sometimes secretly referred to herself as “Greenone” and thought of the

Green Lady as a goddess figure. Until the dream, yellow and oranges had

been her favorite colors but from the dream on, she identified with green.

   “Kathy? Pizza‟s here,” she heard Tom call. Enough daydreaming.

She‟d work on the story tonight, after pizza. She hoped Jan and Tom

would leave for a bit but that Jan would come back to stay the night.

           argaret‟s favorite color was green and

           sometimes, when she had been particularly

           good, Margaret‟s mother would stop by the

           Dollar Store and get her a green balloon

just for being good.

  Today was one of those days.    Margaret had been

especially cheerful all day, had not had a single

tantrum or even fussed when she got frustrated but

had used her words instead    to ask for help.

  Margaret‟s mother worked part-time but kept in

touch with Marie, Margaret‟s care taker and talked

to her often to find out how Margaret was doing, so

knew that this particular Monday, Margaret had been

good.   She stopped at a different Dollar Store on

her way home and they had beautiful balloons,

including a green one with a fairy on it which she

bought for Margaret.

  Margaret loved her new balloon with the fairy on

it.   She named the fairy, “Green Fairy” and

especially liked that the balloon had a long string

      and special loop so she could put it on her wrist

      and walk around with it.            When they weren‟t going

      anywhere and at night while Margaret slept, she kept

      the green fairy balloon in the corner of her room

      closest to her bed.

         Margaret‟s mother and father smiled the first

      night after she got the balloon and was saying her

      prayers, she did a God bless for her mommy and daddy

      and little brother and then added, “and God bless my

      green fairy.”

   Kathy found it hard work writing a story from a three year old‟s

perspective or about a three year old. She decided to work instead on

her Cooper paper, see if she couldn‟t get it finished so she could turn it in

early, tomorrow. Since she was taking her courses online now, she could

log into her classroom and work whenever she wanted and upload her

work anytime before Midnight on Friday.

         The mid-Nineteenth Century writer and diplomat, James Fenimore

      Cooper, helped establish and consolidate early United States culture

      and identity through his writings of Eighteenth Century Colonial

      American life.

   Kathy wished she could figure out how to make her thesis statement

more succinct. She kept writing, knowing that the arguments she made

might give her a clue how to reword the paper‟s first paragraph so it

would all fit together better, like a well made jigsaw puzzle. Kathy loved

that aspect of writing research papers, no matter for what course.

   This paper was particularly challenging because she was trying to show

how a writer, normally studied in literature courses, was instrumental in

affecting history. Although heavily romanticized, Cooper‟s depiction of

early frontier life and his sea tales were a form of history class for readers

of his era, fifty to one hundred years after that frontier and tie to England

across the Atlantic, was gone. His writings gave the new Nation a sense

of its own historic back story and served as a foundation as well as a kind

of a cultural glue.

   But even writing history papers proved hard tonight so she logged on

to the course‟s online classroom and checked out the forums.      Kathy

loved online sites and had no trouble chatting with others, whether

informally or for a participation grade. She understood that the more she

wrote and bounced ideas off others, the more likely she was to remember

all that was necessary, for the proctored final exam.

   Satisfied with the work she‟d done for the evening, Kathy got into her

pajamas and snuggled under the covers with the new romance books

she‟d bought. Jan still wasn‟t home when she turned out the light to go

to sleep but Kathy kind of liked the quiet of the house. It would have

been perfect if she could have had a small dog or cat. When she moved

into the cottage with Jan, she had had to leave Oliver, her Cocker

Spaniel, at her parents‟ home and though she knew her mother fed him

well, she felt sad for him having no one to cuddle or play with him.

   Kathy woke Wednesday morning from a dream about Sirius, the dog

star, but in the dream it was also the satellite radio station and Oliver all

in one which also reminded her of Dogsbody, the novel by Diana Wynne

Jones where the star comes down to earth and is born as an actual

puppy. That got her thinking of other books she‟d read by Diana Wynne

Jones and, since they were about myths and stuff, that reminded her of

her words and synchronicity and she decided to pick another three words,

see what happened with them today.

   First she went to the kitchen, noticing on the way that Jan‟s door was

open and it didn‟t look like she‟d come back last night. That wasn‟t so

bad, she thought, sleeping in the house alone. She made a quick cup of

coffee in the microwave and a couple slices of toast in her toaster and

took them back to her room.

   The first word she picked from the bowl was, “night.” Hmm. Here she

was thinking about sleeping in the house alone at night. The next word

was, “property.” She wondered if that was about looking for a new place

to live? Or maybe it was about objects in the house she should make

sure Jan didn‟t take because they were hers. The last word she picked

was, “melody.” That word made her smile in anticipation. Kathy loved

her music.

   “Hey, Anita,” Kathy said when she walked in the back door at work an

hour later, almost before she‟d gotten her things settled in her cubbyhole,

“Is Amy here yet?”

   “Come sit here at the table for a moment please, Kathy, I have

something I‟d like to discuss with you first thing,” Anita answered. Uh

oh, Kathy thought. What went wrong?

   “Do you want coffee?” Anita asked, the pot poised over a cup

assuming Kathy would answer „yes‟.

   “Yes, please,” was all Kathy said.

   When they were both seated and each had taken a sip of their coffee,

her boss looked Kathy in the eye and said, “I‟m sure you‟ve noticed we

haven‟t had many customers the last month or two, Kathy. I laid off Amy

last night and will probably not be calling Sarah in very often for awhile, if

at all. I‟m afraid it will just be you and me for a bit here, and I‟m

wondering if you could work a few more hours.

   “The shopping center only gives an hour leeway in opening and

closing; we have to open at least by ten o‟clock a.m. and can‟t close

sooner than eight o‟clock in the evening but starting today I am going to

change our hours from what they are now, nine to nine, back to ten to

the morning to open to eight to close, Monday to Saturday and no longer

open at all on Sundays.

   “I‟d like you to alternate with me either opening in the morning or

closing in the evenings. We‟ll be open ten hours a day instead of twelve

but I‟d like us to only work eight hours each so one person would come in

and open at ten and leave at six and the other person would come in at

Noon and close up at eight. We can alternate days or, if you prefer

working early or late we can choose one or the other. What do you


   “Wow,” Kathy said, “I had no idea.” I guess things won‟t change too

very much except maybe some evenings and Saturdays it might be

difficult with one person. I‟d be happy to do whatever is needed and

helps you the most, Professor.” Kathy still sometimes called Anita

“professor” to show respect from their days as college business teacher

and student.

   Kathy‟s head was swimming. Amy was laid off? Guess asking her to

get an apartment together was off too. She‟d have to call her and go out

to lunch with her this week or next, find out what was up. Ugh, ten hour

days. That would at least mean a little more money. But was the store

going to close? What happens if the economy doesn‟t pick up and more

shoppers come. Maybe the whole Mall was in trouble.

   “Do you know why this is happening, why there are fewer shoppers?”

She asked Anita. “Is the Mall having trouble or is it just the bookstore or

number of people reading going down?       I can‟t imagine a business

professor wouldn‟t be able to run a business well,” Kathy joked.

   “I think it‟s a little of everything,” Anita answered. “And you know the

old adage, which has a certain amount of truth to it, „Those who can‟t do,

teach.‟ Did you know, my husband dared me to open this store,” she

revealed, smiling. “He‟s a law professor, teaches property rights at the


   “But you wanted to open the store, didn‟t you?” That Anita was

treating her as an equal and talking about her personal life was exciting

to Kathy but she was also distracted by the unexpected use of the word

“property,” just having picked that this morning. Was that synchronicity

or something else? She‟d certainly remember this conversation! Maybe

that was all she was supposed to do. She thought she was paying better

attention to things since starting to pick words.

   “Oh, yes,” Anita answered, readily. “One bit of advice, Kathy, never

do anything you don‟t really want to; it is rarely worth it. It is much

better to always see what it is you yourself want and wish to see happen

in the world and then seek to do those things. Doing things because

others expect you to or even just to please them usually doesn‟t work.”

   “But, it‟s getting time to open the store,” she continued. “Do you want

to be out front first or shall I?”

   “I‟d like to process some of these boxes of books, make a little more

room back here, tidy up, then I‟ll bring them out and shelve them and

you can take a break back here, if that‟s okay? But how about our hours

today? I have a sewing lesson scheduled for five o‟clock.”

   “Yes, today I think I‟ll keep the old hours and make a sign about the

new hours which we‟ll start tomorrow.       Why don‟t you work nine to five

today, just as you are scheduled. Do you want to work early or late

tomorrow; let‟s see, that‟s Thursday, isn‟t it?”

   “Yes. I guess I‟d rather work early. You want me here at around 9:30

and I‟ll come out and turn on the lights in the store and open the grill

around ten? Then I‟ll work until six, is that right?”

   “That sounds good. We‟ll do split lunches like usual and maybe I‟ll

grab something to eat for dinner just before you leave at six.” The

schedules all settled, Anita went into the store and opened it. Though it

was five after nine, there wasn‟t exactly a crowd waiting to get in. Anita

went out onto the walk in front of the store and looked up and down the

avenue and only saw three people. It didn‟t look good for sales that day.

            he rest of Wednesday was quiet at the bookstore and Kathy

            left at five to go down to the sewing store and work with Pat.

                The store was near the food court and Kathy‟s session

technically didn‟t start until five thirty so usually she grabbed something

to eat quickly before showing up to sew. But some nights she was not in

the mood to sew and would work less than the two and a half hours and

those nights she‟d just get a soda and bring it to the store and start work

right away. She‟d be home around seven or seven thirty and if she didn‟t

stop and get fast food on her way home, she‟d just fix something simple

at home to eat in her room while she studied.

   Tonight she wanted to get home early so she could finish her Cooper

paper and turn it in. She was curious, too, if Jan would come home or if

she was pretty much gone from the cottage. She would miss having

someone to eat meals with but supposed with the hours changing at the

bookstore, maybe working later wouldn‟t be so bad.

   “Hi, Pat. Hi, Carol,” she greeted her teacher and the owner of the

sewing store. The workroom was crowded this evening, there were two

other workers and a regular student there. But she found a machine that

wasn‟t being used and space on the cutting bench for the corduroy skirt

and vest she was making.
   “What are we working on this evening?” Pat asked.

   “I think the lining for the vest? I don‟t want to stay the whole time, I

need to get home a little early tonight.” Pat was the only one that Kathy

told everything going on in her life to. Sometimes it was easier to talk to

Pat than even to Edita. Pat was a warm, fun, and friendly woman in her

sixties, had several daughters of her own and grandchildren.

   The women who worked at the sewing store weren‟t paid anything by

Carol, the store owner. Instead, students contracted independently with

whomever they were paired up with when they came in to check out

lessons, depending on what it was they wanted to learn about. Pat had

fifty years of sewing experience and had taught lots of other places

including formally in schools. When Kathy had come into the store to

inquire about learning to design and make her own clothes, she had met

Pat and they had hit it off right away. The lessons were one-on-one and

quite affordable but since Kathy paid for Edita out of her own pocket too,

she had to budget well and stick to it to be able to afford Pat every week

or two.

   “Jan, my roommate, got her own place and the rental agreement is in

her name so I have to move in the next couple weeks,” Kathy told her

now. “I asked the owner of the cottage if I could put the agreement in
my name but she and her husband already planned for their daughter to

move in Thanksgiving weekend.”

   “So soon? Usually people give you thirty days notice don‟t they?”

   “I don‟t know, I guess so. But Jan didn‟t tell me anything until we

were in the middle of a big fight the other night about grapes and how I

cook using the microwave. Don‟t ask!” She laughed at Pat‟s confused


   “So, do you have a place to go?” Pat asked while she was ironing

Kathy‟s work which came out rumpled from the bag she carried it around

in and stuffed in her bookstore cubby until class. Kathy loved working

with Pat because Pat did a lot of the boring parts of the work, like ironing

and some of the cutting or pinning and getting it ready for Kathy to sew.

   “Not really. I looked at the place across the street from here, the

garden apartment things? They were horrible! I was going to ask one of

my coworkers, you remember Amy; I think I brought her in here once?

Anyway, Anita, my boss, had to lay her off last night, the bookstore

doesn‟t have any customers.    Looks like Carol‟s doing okay though?”

   “I think sewing is a bit different since it‟s ongoing and has people who

come in each week, like you. We did have a new woman working here,
Melody, did you meet her? She couldn‟t get enough clients so stopped

coming as often. It can take some time to build up a clientele. But the

sewing store doesn‟t rely on walk-ins as much as a bookstore I wouldn‟t


   Kathy just shook her head negatively at the mention of Melody.

Another of her words for today. The only one left was “night.” She


   “It does seem a bit cool in here, “ Pat commented, mistaking the kind

of shiver.   They worked together quietly for a bit pinning and sewing the

lining parts to the vest. “You said you didn‟t want to line the skirt?” Pat

checked, asking again as she had the week before.

   “I think you said it didn‟t really need it. It‟s corduroy and I don‟t think

anyone can see through it? A slip will be fine? I did have a nice heavy-

weight material jumper my stepmother made that I loved, it had a nice

cotton lining and I didn‟t need a slip even with that. That was one of the

most comfortable pieces of clothes I‟ve ever owned. Reminds me of the

play jumpers she‟d make me when I was five and six and I‟d just call her

up and ask could I play in the sprinkler at Susie‟s house and away I‟d go.”

   “See, your stepmother and you sewing wasn‟t all bad,” Pat joked.

“No, I don‟t think you need to line the skirt.” Kathy struggled to put the

button holer on her machine and Pat had her move and sat and put it on

for her.

   Kathy made three button holes while Pat threaded a couple needles to

sew the buttons on with. “Where are the buttons, Kathy? You did

remember to bring them didn‟t you?”

   “I left them in your drawer, remember?” Pat opened the top drawer of

the clear plastic sewing cabinet and found a little bag with the blue

buttons Kathy had chosen for the red, white, and blue speckled corduroy


   When finally the outfit was complete, Pat took the completed vest and

ironed it and placed it on a hanger with a paper insert. Then she used a

couple of safety pins to pin the skirt to the paper just above the straight

wire at the bottom of the hangar and buttoned the new vest buttons so

the vest wouldn‟t fall off the hanger.

   “Very nice,” Pat complimented, holding the finished outfit at arm‟s

length so they could get the full effect of how it would look. “Did you

want to get started on something else or are you finished,” she smiled at

her own wording as Kathy was known for being “finished” before most


  Though not lazy, Kathy wasn‟t the most patient person and sometimes

got bored easily. That‟s why she and her stepmother had gotten into

trouble trying to sew together. Her stepmother was a seamstress as

good as Pat but not patient and use to make Kathy work for longer than

she could bear so Kathy had grown to hate sewing. Now she was taking

lessons from Pat, hoping to feel better about sewing and enjoy it more.

She loved having the new clothes; this was the third outfit she and Pat

had made together. She planned on wearing this new outfit to

Thanksgiving dinner at her parents to show her stepmother.

  “I think I will stop for tonight,” she answered as she handed Pat her

check. That was another thing she had to remember to do, go over her

finances and see just how much money she did have in savings and to

spend on rent, etcetera. “Can we make an appointment for after

Thanksgiving? I think with having to move and all I‟m going to be too

busy to come sew.”

  “Sure,” Pat replied, looking at her calendar, “How about Wednesday

the second of December?”

   “That‟s good for me but I think we have to start a bit later. Anita has

changed around our work schedule so we‟re alternating either coming in

early or staying late. I‟ll make sure I ask to come in early that day but

still, I won‟t get off until six; can I see you at six thirty?”

   “That‟s fine. See you then, Kathy.”

   “Bye. Bye Carol,” she added as she went out to the front and out the

door into the Mall carrying her new outfit. It wasn‟t quite six thirty but

she‟d gotten a lot done. She stopped and bought a small container of

chicken fried rice to take home from the Chinese place in the food court

and was back at the cottage before seven.

           t didn‟t look as if Jan had been there all day but she showed up

           around nine o‟clock. Kathy was in her room, her door open,

           which was nice, and finally she had had enough courage to turn

on her clock radio again, and had a classical station playing while she

alternated working on her history paper and responding to the professor‟s

questions and other students‟ responses in the class forum.

   “Oh, come on, Mr. James Hartman! I know it‟s just after Halloween

but Irving didn‟t celebrate the holiday; he meant no such thing in Sleepy

Hollow with Headless,” Kathy admonished her computer screen, happily

composing a message to the hapless Hartman to show him the errors of

his way.

   “Kat?” Jan was standing in the doorway looking around the small

room as if she expected to find whoever Kathy was talking to there.

   Kathy looked up, a little startled.   “Oh, Jan, hi! How was your day?

You just picking something up?” She was determined to play out the rest

of their week as if she didn‟t have a care. It was difficult though; it really

bothered her that Jan hadn‟t offered to help find another place for her to

live or offer help moving or anything.

   “More, sort of. I‟m trying to work later tonight and tomorrow so I can

take half of Friday off and move Friday and Saturday. How are you


   “I‟m great!” She wasn‟t about to tell her ex-roommate about the

troubles at work. “I‟m going to be working late some nights myself,

getting a little extra money. . . for Christmas.” She was proud of that

little save.

   “Well, good for you. You working on your school paper? Isn‟t it about

Hawthorn or someone?”

   “Cooper, James Fenimore Cooper. There‟s still some cold pizza and a

beer or two in the fridge if you haven‟t eaten yet. I had sewing tonight

so picked up something at the food court before I came home.” Kathy

hoped she sounded dismissive. “Do you want to close my door so my

radio doesn‟t disturb you, please.”

   “Uh, sure.” Keep a smile on her face, Jan left, closing Kathy‟s door

behind her. Kathy went back to working on her history paper.

          James Cooper used his life experiences and political leanings to

      engage his readers and those he met in the course of his day–to–day

      life in a dialog with history. Without pathfinders such as Cooper, those

      early citizens of the United States would not have known about or

      remembered as much of their cultural background, and taming future

      frontiers would have been much more difficult.

         One of the purposes of the study of history is to inform the citizen’s

      current experience and make his present and future choices easier to

      discern. The Pacific Northwest was settled much quicker and with less

      fuss than the original frontier because of the remembered history of

      that original frontier. Relationships with Native Americans went a bit

      smoother and religious situations were handled with greater aplomb.

   After another hour or so of such deathless prose, Kathy finished the

paper, reread the sixteen pages, and checked her footnotes. It would

have to do. She uploaded it into the grading section and checked the box

saying she wanted the professor to be able to access it. It was a slight

relief to be finished but she knew she‟d be thinking about Cooper for a

few more days. She wondered how the high school girl was coming with

her book report on The Pathfinder. Maybe she should have told her about

her own paper and given the girl her phone number in case she wanted

some help. Kathy needed all the karma she could get and if the

synchronicity words and all that had happened with them so far hadn‟t

been quite so surprising, she might have felt more comfortable talking to

the girl and Dave.

   Dave! She needed to remember to look up the book for Dave, that

last one in the Wheel of Time series. She scribbled herself a note and put

it in her wallet. Okay, what about Edita‟s story? You going to work on

that now, she asked herself?

   She reread what she‟d written so far and didn‟t like but one


         Today was one of those days.        Margaret had been

      especially cheerful all day, had not had a single

      tantrum or even fussed when she got frustrated but

      had used her words instead       to ask for help.

   She really wasn‟t in the mood to write the story anymore. She had to

admit that she liked just having the words, not writing about them, as

she‟d been doing since the Adams on Sunday. Here it was Wednesday

night and, though she‟d picked more words, she hadn‟t really written

more stories.   Even Edita‟s “air” word, she‟d picked “story” and “school”

to go with it but figured just the premise of stories and the Cooper paper

for school, as well as the high school girls had covered them. Maybe she

should look at all the words again, outside of what happened in her


   She pulled the clipboard with its list of thirteen synchronicities from

her backpack and then took a blank sheet of notebook paper from

underneath the list and made a list of all the words she‟d picked. She

was going to see if there wasn‟t some larger picture she couldn‟t see just

looking at a few words at a time or a few words only in the context of a

story or outside a story.

   river-returned to the bowl




   air-from Edita



   The first thing she noticed was how many words she‟d chosen. She‟d

forgotten some of the first ones that didn‟t have a place in the stories.

Maybe it was a little like Edita said and the words she didn‟t remember or

use, she didn‟t meet up with? Or maybe it was that she couldn‟t expect

more than two or three at a time to manifest.

   Some words though, like “please” and “sense” didn‟t seem clear

enough to her to be able to manifest strongly. Maybe she could make a

point that she‟d begged or asked to please rent the cottage or that she

didn‟t please the Websters enough. Some words were awfully adaptable

to finding everywhere, she had to give Edita that.

   She decided to try a different method. If you concentrated on a word

before you went to sleep, asked your unconscious to manifest it, you

could train yourself to dream about it. She had been doing a lot of

dreaming about words, since the dream she had awakened from last

Sunday morning about Edita and not understanding the words. That was

a bit prophetic wasn‟t it? She‟d thought up the whole word story

connection thing Saturday night just before bed and Saturday night had

been the whole Caroline princess hat thing. Those things had happened

before she picked any words. I think the rest of the night I‟m going to

concentrate on the word “string” and see what happens.

   Kathy got in her pajamas and wandered out to the kitchen to see if

there was any string but found Jan had packed up all the drawers,

including the “junk” drawer. There was a rusty potato peeler and a

couple odds and ends of silverware, maybe enough to get by with but not

anything one would keep. While she was wondering what else would

work instead of literal string, she noticed the broken blind on the kitchen

door and unthreaded some of the cording and cut it with a knife left in

the drawer. That would work.

   She put down the piece of cord and the knife and started looking in

the cabinets to see what else Jan had left. Her set of two Christmas

mugs were still there, they‟d have to do for coffee. Most of the food that

would spoil was left but she noticed the flour and sugar canisters were

gone. She found a couple stray packets of herb tea, sugar, creamer, and

ketchup. Maybe she wouldn‟t bother with buying more of anything now,

she‟d just get up in the morning, dress, and leave, stop somewhere for

coffee. She wondered what the situation was with the utilities; would

there be no heat after Jan was gone for good? That didn‟t sound right

since the Websters‟ daughter and granddaughter were moving in so soon.

   She put the knife back in the junk drawer and picked up the cording

and took it back to her room. This time, she closed the door.      Kathy had

already thought it out and realized the idea of sleeping with her door

open to the house and no one else there spooked her so she‟d continue to

sleep with her door closed at night.

   She put the cording under pillow before slipping into bed herself and

picking up her romance novel again. It was a Christmas story; she loved

spending November and December reading Christmas romance novels.

Every now and then she tried to stop and remember the Sound of Music,

“Favorite Things” lyrics, “Brown paper packages tied up with strings” and

pictured Christmas presents and anything else that had anything string

like related to it. Finally she turned off her bedside light and fell asleep

almost immediately.

                      hen Kathy woke on Thursday, it was from a dream

                      about untangling a string of Christmas tree lights. Her

                      father hated that job and often in the past, Kathy had

tackled it. For the first time, she thought ahead and wondered where

she‟d be living this Christmas and how her life might be changed.

   Her parents lived in a town only an hour up the interstate but they

were retired and also had a vacation home down in Florida where they

were now. They wouldn‟t be back until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

She would be living somewhere else by then. She supposed she should

call them and tell them she and Jan were breaking up and she was having

to find another place to live but then her stepmother would be all over

her with unwanted advice and criticism.

   Jan‟s door was closed so Kathy assumed she was still sleeping and just

kept going through the kitchen, out to her car after she was dressed. Let

Jan realize and worry about her own selfish behavior at not having left

anything much to eat or drink. Kathy drove to the local Dunkin Donuts

and got a tall latte and two honey dipped donuts and decided to eat them

there in the store.

   Since she was free of the history paper, she didn‟t have much to worry

about for school in the next couple weeks.      She was taking an accounting
course too but that was a worksheet of problems due once a week and

Kathy always tackled that each Saturday and got it all done so she‟d have

the week free. So, she had a couple more days before she had to worry

about the next one.

  She pulled her journal out of her knapsack and made a small hand-

drawn calendar of just the days of the week across the top and then the

numbers underneath so she could have a sense of the overall picture

before the second of December. If she could just get past moving and

Thanksgiving, she thought she might be okay.

  Basically she had a week to find a place and that might not be too

easy with her increased store hours. But she wasn‟t seeing Pat until

December and she was up to date with her school work. Maybe she could

look at a few places on mornings when she didn‟t start work until Noon.

Today was her “early” day so maybe she‟d leave work at six and do a

little grocery shopping and keep some of what she bought in her room so

she‟d know it would be there for her use until after the weekend when

she was sure Jan was gone. She‟d call Amy, too, and see if she couldn‟t

make a dinner date for next Monday or Tuesday, see what was up with

her and if she wanted to look for a place with her or help her move or


   Finished with her donuts and most of her coffee, Kathy carried her

coffee and backpack back to the car and headed to work.

   Everything at work went the way Anita predicted.      Anita came in at

Noon, they didn‟t have many customers throughout the day and Kathy let

Anita go get some dinner at five thirty. She finally left herself close to six

thirty, long past dark. She went to the grocery store closest to the

cottage but it was almost eight when she got home. The house was dark

and Jan‟s car was not there.

   She stumbled in through the back door and turned on all the lights she

could find. Jan had started moving smaller pieces of furniture and lots of

the lamps. Her stereo set was no longer there and there were no dining

room chairs. Kathy started to put her few cold items in the refrigerator

but when she opened its door, it stank; she‟d have to clean the

refrigerator out first. There was only one garbage bag left and she hadn‟t

thought to buy any at the store. She‟d have to really start paying

attention and making lists! She grabbed the clipboard and her journal

out of her backpack, looked at the synchronicity list and read it one last

time then took it off the clipboard and threw it in the trash. She didn‟t

think she‟d have time for all that for awhile. She thought of her string

word and had a mental image of a marionette with her face and


   “List” she wrote at the top of a blank page; and “trash bags” she wrote

under it. She had bought a roll of paper towels and set to throwing

everything from the refrigerator into the trash bag and wiping the shelves

as best she could with paper towels and water.     There were no other

cleaning supplies left under the sink. When she‟d done as well as she

could, she put the Cornish game hens, sausage, apples, cheese, yogurt,

and small carton of milk in the empty refrigerator and took the rest of her

supplies, sugar cubes, dry creamer, coffee bags, a single plate, mug, and

box of plastic cutlery, throw away aluminum pans for cooking in and

other odds and ends to her room.

   Jan had left the little two-seater kitchen table and chairs, so far, and

Kathy sat down there now with her new list. She decided to just start

listing everything she needed to do between now and Monday and then

things for next week and then Thanksgiving week. December started the

Tuesday after Thanksgiving so that would be a good place to stop. She

opened her journal up to the page she‟d started the previous night, the

one with the calendar.

   Amy! She grabbed her cell phone and dialed Amy‟s parents number.

Surprisingly, Amy answered. “Hello, Foster residence, this is Amy.”

   “Amy, it‟s Kathy, how are you? Anita told me she‟d had to lay you


   “Kat! Yeah, she had warned me the week before so it didn‟t come as a

complete surprise. But what are things like there now?”

   “It‟s not looking very good, she cut the store hours but I still have to

work longer now, she and I stagger them so one of us comes in late and

leaves late and the other days we come in earlier to open and leave

around six.”

   “But what‟s up with you? Have you found another job or at least got

some leads in case I need them soon,” Kathy joked.

   “Nah, I applied to a few stores in the Mall but no one‟s hiring. I think

I‟m just going to go to school full-time for a semester and see what

happens. My Dad‟s practice is still doing okay even though Mom has cut

her hours and he thinks he can swing a full-time stint at the university for

me.” Amy was a couple years younger than Kathy and only had

sophomore standing in college.

   “Well that‟s good isn‟t it?” Kathy didn‟t wait for Amy to reply. “Look, I

wanted to know if we could meet for dinner next Monday or Tuesday? I

can make sure I have an early day and get off at six. We could meet

around six thirty at the Happy Buddha on Chester Street or maybe Scrum

Pizza if you feel like Pizza.” The name of the pizza restaurant was

actually Scrumptious Pizza but everyone called it “Scrum” for short.

   Amy wasn‟t twenty one yet and her parents were both lawyers and

took a dim view of underage drinking. Her father was managing partner

of his firm but Amy‟s mother worked for a real estate law firm and with

the real estate market plunge, some of their work had dried up.

   “Let‟s meet Tuesday,” Amy agreed. “Six forty-five at Scrums? I think

that‟s closer to the Mall in case you don‟t get off work right away.

   “Great! Can‟t wait to see you. I have other interesting news you‟ll

have to wait to hear about until then; Jan is moving, bought her own

condo, and has Tom moving in with her and didn‟t bother mentioning it to


   “Oh, geez, that‟s horrible Kathy, you going to stay in the cottage

alone? I can‟t wait to hear all about it!”

   “I can‟t stay in the cottage but I‟m fine, I‟ll tell all on Tuesday. See

you then.”

   “Bye, see you,” Amy responded, the first to hang up.

   Kathy wrote “Amy” on her list and then the dinner date information.

Next she wrote, “Alex” and put a question mark next to his name.        If she

was going to break down and call Alex, she might as well wait until she

had something positive to call him about.

   The empty kitchen didn‟t feel comfortable anymore and Kathy picked

up her backpack, the clipboard and pen and wandered through the house

the long way; through the dining area where she noticed all the pretty

pottery was gone; there were no dishes in the glass-fronted cabinet, even

Monet‟s Sailboats at Argenteuil was gone. That made Kathy feel lonelier

than ever. She‟d been looking at that print for three years, use to do

some of her homework in the dining room, before things got a bit

strained between she and Jan. Now she kept walking through the dining

area, there were no chairs anyway, even if she‟d wanted to linger.
   The living room looked even more bereft without the floor lamp and

little table beside Kathy‟s favorite chair. There was no character left in

the room. “I‟m sorry,” Kathy whispered to the room as she walked

through. She thought of the list of words she‟d made and how “picture”,

“room,” and “travel” had all been in the same pick with “string” and here

she was, travelling through rooms without pictures. What a depressing

dream that would make, she thought. Maybe it was a foretelling. Give it

up, Kathy, she argued with herself. You and Jan didn‟t use your words

well and now you have nowhere to live.

   Kathy put the clipboard down on the desk, the backpack on the floor

next to the chair and sat. She opened one of her desk drawers and

pulled out her little bank book ledger and opened her spreadsheets on the

computer. Time to see what her money situation was.

   Her parents put thirty-five hundred dollars in a joint account every

four months for school. This semester she had almost half of that left

because she was only taking the two courses, not three like she was

expected to, or four, like she could if she stretched things. She‟d only

taken two once before, over a year ago, and her stepmother had given

her a lecture and deposited five hundred less in the account the next

semester. But her father had secretly mailed her a check for a few

hundred when Gyro had needed repairs, enough to cover the repairs and

a bit more. This time Kathy had opened another account and moved

enough of the money over so it looked like she was taking three courses.

   She had been taking home nearly three hundred a week from the

bookstore for around thirty–five hours of work each week, now she‟d

have close to four hundred, she figured with the increased hours. She‟d

add all that extra to her money market account. She went online to

check just how much she had saved there, looked like just a little over

twelve hundred. She‟d need that for security deposit and first month‟s

rent. She hoped she didn‟t have to go much higher than four or five

hundred a month in rent; otherwise, it would put a crimp in her sewing

and general living expenses.

   Her bank account had seventeen dollars in it to last her until she got

paid on Saturday and her credit cards, one was at the max of eight

thousand and she owed twenty–two hundred on the new one, that only

had a five thousand dollar limit. Kathy shook her head. For a business

major, she was in pretty deep and she knew better. Both her parents

would kill her if they discovered her debt.

   She made a note on her list to check utility costs; heat, electric/lights,

water and she could see she‟d be buying a TV or at least a stereo. She
didn‟t know about phone; she and Jan had a land line but it was in Jan‟s

name and Kathy hated using it and rarely gave it out for people to call.

She preferred her cell number and that was one of her bigger expenses.

   Kathy put aside the expenses and looked around her room. She might

as well pack some of the smaller stuff, as much as she could, and haul it

to her storage bin at the university tomorrow morning.     Some upper

class commuter students who made the Dean‟s List were issued little

storage bins in the basement of the student union and Kathy‟d been lucky

and gotten one a couple semesters ago. As with online accounts, the

school kind of forgot about you unless you left altogether so she wasn‟t

worried about putting stuff there, and she‟d just be using it to triangulate

moving; she‟d stick the small stuff there and then go get it when she got

into her own place.

   By the time she got her suitcases full of clothes, crock pot box and a

few other similar containers of things into the back of Gyro, she was

ready for bed. Looked like Jan wasn‟t coming back here tonight.

   Kathy fell asleep trying to think of ways to cheer up the cottage some

again, until she too left.

             athy didn‟t sleep well alone, it was too dark, too quiet. She

             tossed and turned much of the night and, consequently,

             woke late on Friday.   She barely had enough time to swing

by the University and drop her things off in her bin before she had to join

Anita at the bookstore at Noon. It was only twelve thirty when the first

crack in her well made plans struck Kathy.

   Anita handed off the front of the store to Kathy when she arrived so

she could go grab some lunch and then do some work in the back. A

regular customer had been in to pick up a special order and a couple

lookers had been in but that was all, she said. But only a moment after

Anita got back from lunch, in walked Dave Adams.

   Oh, shit, thought Kathy, I forgot all about ordering his Wheel of Time

book. She could see herself putting the slip of paper into her backpack

pocket where it was right now. She hadn‟t looked at it again. Dave came

over to her at the front desk and smiled. “Did you get it in,” he asked?

   “Now, who are you?” Kathy tried to joke. That made him frown until

he realized she was joking and then his face cleared again. Kathy started

walking over to the science fiction and fantasy section and praying the

book would magically be there. Please, please, Mr. Clock Radio, I really

really need help now. She couldn‟t even remember the name of the
specific book and hoped seeing it would jog her memory. Dave followed

behind her.

   “It‟s not here, is it?” she asked, the two of them scanning the shelves


   “I don‟t see it,” Dave said evenly. “Weren‟t you going to have to order

it or something?”

   “Let me look in back,” Kathy countered, giving him a last smile before

she disappeared behind the curtain.

   Anita looked up, “What‟s wrong, Kathy?”

   “I forgot to order the cute guy‟s book. Remember the guy that came

in last week and discombobulated me? He wants the latest in the Wheel

of Time series and it just came out a couple weeks ago. I kind of fudged

things and said I could order it for him or to check back later, that we just

probably hadn‟t received it yet. I didn‟t order it and he‟s checking back

later, right now. Since we‟re not taking anymore automatic shipments,

no chance we‟ve gotten it in is there?”

   “Oh, Kathy, you disappoint me. How many times have I told you to

put requests on the list, immediately after the customer leaves. Even if

they don‟t come back for it, it‟s likely someone else will want it, especially

if it‟s a new book.”

   “But what do I do now?” Kathy whined. Telling Dr. Rogers that she

had a note to herself to order the book in her backpack pocket wasn‟t

going to make things any better.

   “Nothing for it but to tell him we don‟t have it but are expecting it

tomorrow, I‟ll go buy it at one of the big chain stores and bring it in and

we sell it to him tomorrow as if it‟s ours.”

   Kathy went back out front and found Dave Adams pacing back and

forth before the desk. “We won‟t have it until tomorrow,” she informed

him, brightly. He scowled at her.

   “I don‟t want to come back, especially on a weekend when I‟m not

working. I‟ll just go get it at the store near my apartment,” he said.

Then he turned and walked out of the store without saying anything else.

   “Bye!” She said quietly after him. She pulled aside the curtain and

told Anita what had happened.

   Because there wasn‟t much work to do out front, Kathy asked Anita if

she could do some personal stuff sitting behind the front desk. Anita

sighed and told her to go ahead and Kathy got her clipboard and journal

from her backpack to take out front. She looked through the yellow

pages of the phone book and found two or three apartment complexes to

investigate in the next week. The store had mostly browsers who didn‟t

need any help and a couple older women who bought cheap romance

novels before five thirty, when Anita came out front so she could go grab

something to eat. They could both tell it was going to be a quiet evening

as well.

   Kathy did get a request after Anita had gone home, she dutifully pulled

out the special sheet Anita kept on the shelf to the side of the main front

desk and listed it after the customer had gone. There was only one other

request on there and Kathy knew it wasn‟t going to be ordered; Anita

checked the list daily and ordered those she knew or thought would get

purchased and then crossed off the name. This one hadn‟t been crossed

off. The store was quiet the rest of the night, even though Kathy put off

closing until eight thirty; she didn‟t have anywhere else to be tonight,

nothing else to do.

   Driving home Kathy remembered Jan saying she was working late in

order to take time off this afternoon. Sure enough, when Kathy got

home, even though Jan was not there, neither was almost half the

furniture that had been there the night before. The little table and chairs

were gone out of the kitchen and Jan‟s room was bare. She wouldn‟t be

spending the night here anymore. Even Kathy‟s favorite living room chair

was gone. All that remained were the really big items; the living room

couch, the loveseat, the dining room table, dining cabinet and half of the

entertainment system. Kathy opened the front door hall closet and was

greeted by her own dirty, frayed rain coat that had the zip in lining and

hood to make it warmer which she hoped was still in her closet as they

weren‟t in this one, but she hadn‟t seen them since last winter so wasn‟t


   She went into her bedroom, dropped her backpack next to the chair

and grabbed the bag of extra cooking gear and went into the kitchen. If

Jan was gone out of her room, Kathy didn‟t think she had to worry about

her food items being stolen.

   The kitchen felt dirtier than she‟d left it last night. The junk drawer

knife was laying in the sink with a bit of cheddar still sticking to it. Two

waxed paper soda cups from the local drive through, melted ice mixed

with soda were sitting on the counter. An apple core was on a paper

plate with a couple of used paper towels. The garbage bag had not been

disturbed.   When she opened the refrigerator door, she had one fewer

apples and the cheese was sitting opened to the air, already drying

around the edged, nearly half of it was missing. Another apple had an

envelope under it.

  Kat, she read. Tom and I will be back with the truck for the big items

tomorrow around nine a.m. Give us a hand and let us take you out to

breakfast afterwards? Jan

  There was a five dollar bill in the envelope, presumably to pay for the

apple and cheese. Why didn‟t they just cook a Cornish hen while they

were at it? Good thing she didn‟t buy butter or bread or they might have

tried to make grilled cheese sandwiches.

  She had bought plastic bags so she put the hardening cheese in a bag

and put a hen on the throw away foil pan and in the oven. She dumped

their soda cups and put everything in the trash, including the nasty junk

drawer knife. With nowhere to sit, Kathy retreated to her room and sat

down heavily on the bed.

  She was glad she had work tomorrow. She didn‟t want to have to deal

with Jan and Tom anymore. What had come over Jan that she was so

totally changed? She knew Kathy worked most Saturdays. Well, she‟d
just have to be gone before they got here tomorrow. Sunday she wanted

to grab some breakfast and come back and do her accounting worksheet

for the next week then go out apartment looking. She hoped they would

move everything of Jan‟s tomorrow.

   She put the five back in the envelope and scribbled on the note, Sorry,

have to work. Best, Kat. She took the envelope back into the kitchen

and put it on the refrigerator, under a magnet picture of Jan and Tom,

she and Alex in happier times.

   The picture and thought of looking at apartments reminded her of

Alex. Maybe we could go look at apartments together and talk, she

wondered. She picked up her cell phone and looked through her list of

numbers. His was still there near the top.

   Kathy had met Alexander Fitzgerald in Dr. Roger‟s business class.

They‟d worked on a joint project together. That‟s how Anita knew he and

Kathy were dating. He worked in his father‟s car dealership, was going to

be head of the parts department as soon as he graduated with his

business degree in May. He had messed around after high school for a

couple years before going to college. He didn‟t like business a whole lot

better than Kathy did but was better at conforming. His thing was

   Alex lived with a couple other guys from school. She pressed the

green, call button on her phone, let it ring four times before killing it.

They use to have a personal thing where the other had to answer the

phone in three rings, they weren‟t allowed to let it ring more. Kathy

sighed. He was probably out with another girl, it was Friday night after


   Kathy ate well and went to bed early. That night she dreamed Dr.

Rogers and Mrs. Webster lived in houses next door to one another.        Both

were married but she understood in the dream that they were also

lesbians.   Kathy stood between the two houses, their owners on their

respective front stoops smiling at her, trying to choose which house to


   When Kathy woke, it was nearly seven so she got up, dressed, and set

out for the Dunkin Donuts. It was a cool, overcast, drizzly day. Not the

best for expecting lots of people out early book shopping. But she

wanted to be long away from the cottage when Jan and Tom arrived with

their truck. She wondered what else of hers would be missing when she

finally got home tonight.

                      hen she got to work, Anita was there but hadn‟t yet

                      turned on the lights or opened the store gates to the

                      mall. Kathy blushed when she greeted her, suddenly

remembering her dream.

   “We have a few minutes before I want to open, Kathy, and I‟d like to

talk to you.” Anita had her back to Kathy, was pouring her a cup of


   “Do you think we‟ll have enough customers today?” Kathy asked. It

made Kathy nervous whenever someone said they wanted to talk to her;

especially if it was a teacher or boss.

   “No, I don‟t think there will be enough. That‟s what I wanted to talk to

you about,” Anita turned and handed her the mug of coffee. Their fingers

touched as they guided the mug from one person to the other and Kathy

found the touch oddly comforting. Whatever Anita was going to say, it

would be all right.

   “I‟m closing the store, Kathy. Today will be its last day. Albert and I

will move the stock to our house and I will operate the store part-time as

an internet business.” She handed Kathy her pay envelope.

   “You still want me to work with you today, don‟t you?” Kathy asked,

surprised. Normally she didn‟t get paid until after the day was over. She

was having trouble taking in what was happening. No cottage and now

no job?

   “I wanted to let you decide if you wanted to work today or not. And,

there‟s a little extra in there. I feel badly making this decision so

suddenly, from your point of view.”

   Kathy shrugged. “That‟s okay. I want to help you today and I‟d be

glad to help you pack up and move everything home too, if you‟d like.

Free!” She blushed again, this time because she sounded like a young


   Dr. Rogers smiled kindly. “That won‟t be necessary. The rent is paid

on the store until the end of the month but I‟d certainly love your help

today, if we‟re as slow as I expect we will be.”

   “Kathy,” she continued. “I‟d like you to come see me at school if

there‟s any way you think I can help advise you.” She handed Kathy a

manila folder. “I‟ve written you a glowing letter of recommendation.

Don‟t hesitate to use me as a reference if you are going to be looking for

another job. “

   Kathy almost sobbed. “Well, do you know of any cheap apartments in

good neighborhoods? I just lost my place to stay also and have to find

another before Thanksgiving.” Although why she was thinking about

apartments when she no longer had a job to pay for one, she didn‟t

know. Her whole journal and clipboard pages of plans would have to be

redone. And, she still had this week‟s accounting problems to do before

she could begin working on this mess.

   “Oh, Kathy,” her ex-boss looked at her with concern. “Why didn‟t you

tell me? Can you come see me next Wednesday at school,” Anita pulled

out her academic calendar and referred to it, “two o‟clock in my office?

By then I should have some of this,” she waved her hand around the be-

boxed back room, “organized and will see if I can find some leads for you

for both job and housing.”

   The day went both quickly and too slowly. Kathy had forgotten how

grueling it was to work ten hours in a row. From the moment Anita gave

her the professionally printed red and white posters announcing the

store‟s going out of business to tape in the front window until they closed

the store‟s grill for the last time at eight and spent the next hour loading

boxes into the trailer Anita had rented that was hitched to her car, Kathy

didn‟t have much time to think about her life ahead.

   However, on her drive back to the cottage, the last week‟s disasters all

came to mind at once, and circled around like knockout stars in a cartoon

where the cartoon character had been hit, hard, in the head. It didn‟t

help when she drove up to the dark, silent cottage. The first thing she

noticed when she opened the back door into the kitchen, even before she

turned on the light, was that the garbage bag was no longer there by the

door. They‟d stolen her one garbage bag.

   Kathy dialed her brother, John‟s, number.

   “Hello?” Elyse answered.

   “Elyse, it‟s Kathy.”

   “Kathy, what‟s wrong?” Was her pain that obvious?

   “Oh, nothing much,” she sobbed, “I‟ve been kicked out of the cottage

and lost my job, that‟s all.”

   “Oh, honey, don‟t cry.       It will be all right.”

   Normally such sentiments would have made Kathy angry but coming

from Elyse she found them reassuring and tried to pull herself together.

“Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I‟m going out into the garden

and eat worms,” she recited, a favorite no self-pity reminder her

stepmother used.

   “That‟s not true and you know it, Kathy Hough!” Elyse said strongly,

almost sounding angry. Kathy decided, in its way, it was just as silly a

comeback as the opposite, nobody-loves-me rhyme that triggered it.

   “What happened? Or do you want to talk to John?” Elyse asked.

   “No, I‟m sorry, Elyse, it‟s all right, talking to you is fine; it‟s really all

right, just a bunch of stuff happening at once.

   They were both quiet for a moment. Kathy could almost picture Elyse

on the other end of the phone, patiently listening.        She really liked Elyse

and hoped in ten years she could be as „warm, fun, and friendly.‟

Thinking about her and Edita‟s friend-phrase and how well Elyse fit it

cheered Kathy up even more.

   “Jan bought her own place and she and Tom are moving there

together,” she told Elyse, now that she was recovered from her reaction.

“The Websters, who own the cottage, thought me and Jan were moving

out together when Jan told them she was leaving so they arranged for

their daughter and granddaughter to move in Thanksgiving week. The

bookstore hasn‟t been doing well and Dr. Rogers had to lay off everyone
but me and this morning she had to give me the axe and then I chose to

work all day, even though she paid me and gave me a choice of whether

to work the day or not. Now I‟m back at the cottage and Jan isn‟t here

and it‟s dark and lonely and that just all hit me at once,” she finished in a


   “Oh, Kat, why don‟t you come over here and stay the night? You know

we‟d love to have you. Things are bound to look better in the morning.”

   As tempting as the offer was, Kathy knew their house was just big

enough for them and the children would have to be rearranged to make

room for her. Too, she knew she had face this thing on her own.

   “No, no, that‟s okay, Elyse. Just talking to you and getting it all out

has helped enormously. I‟m sorry if I upset you. Let me know if you

need any babysitting in the next week or two, I‟m probably going to be

freer than normal,” she tried to put a carefree smile in her voice.

   “Thanks, we‟ll keep that in mind. I‟m glad I could help you feel better,

Kat. You‟re one of my favorite local sister-in-laws you know,” Elyse

joked. Kathy was her only local sister-in-law.

   “And you, mine, “ Kathy responded. “I‟ll talk to you later, Elyse,

thanks again!”
              ut despite the comforting talk with Elyse, Kathy slept fitfully.

              The house seemed to creak and settle more loudly,

              complaining about its emptiness. She kept thinking she

heard footsteps and the shadows the tree branches made in her room

seemed more noticeable than they had been before. It had been a

miserable, rainy, windy day Saturday and that weather had continued

through the night. She finally decided to give up trying to sleep, it was

nearly dawn but looked like it was going to be another overcast day.

   She‟d gone almost straight to bed the night before, had grabbed the

cheese and an apple and eaten them in her room and tried to read more

of the romance novel but had given up and, leaving the overhead light in

the hall on, had gone to sleep. Now she saw the kitchen with more light

and noticed the envelope was still on the counter where she‟d left it. I‟ll

deal with that later, she thought.

   Kathy rummaged, forgetting in which cabinet she had stashed her

nonperishable foodstuffs and when she finally opened the right one, found

they had been raided too. She took everything out of the larger grocery

bag and put it over by the door to take the place of the garbage bag that

was gone.

   She found the instant coffee and made a cup in the microwave,

wondering again about the utilities and when they‟d be turned off. The

inside of the microwave needed cleaning. She wandered to her room and

got the clipboard with her list. She‟d have to buy some cleaning supplies

and clean the kitchen and bathroom at the very least. That was okay, it

would give her something to do. Maybe she could get a job with a

cleaning company or janitorial service? She wrote that idea on her list of

job possibilities to try.

   She had to stand and sip her coffee and work on her list. She opened

the envelope and found it had been seen; the five dollars was still there

but now there were two keys and more scribbling on the written

exchange between she and Jan; this one asking her to take the keys to

the Websters when she moved out and handed in her own. One of the

keys was a copy. Tom had had a key.

   What did it matter? Nothing mattered now. Jan was gone and Kathy

had bigger fish to fry like finding a job and a place to live. But first, she

wanted to download her accounting worksheet for the week, see how far

she could get on that. She took the five now, put it in her jeans pocket;

she needed all the money she could find.

   It was too eerie in the house, alone, even with Mr. Clock Radio turned

on. She found herself feeling about the radio as she did about Gyro, her

car. Maybe she‟d have to go back and rewrite the part in the story where

he and Emily got on the wrong foot with each other and he ended up

threatening to tell the Master Clock. Or, maybe she‟d just write herself In

as the Master Clock, or at least as a friend of the Master Clock. She

grinned and felt a little better.

   She still couldn‟t concentrate on the accounting, got up and walked

through the empty house, thinking. All sorts of random thoughts went

through her head, from wondering how many square feet in size the

cottage was to what would happen if she didn‟t get a break soon.

Although it was a pretty bleak looking day outside, she decided staying

inside was worse so got the list of addresses of possible apartments to

look at and her grocery list (garbage bags, cleaning supplies, couple of

canned fruits and veggies and a decent can opener, a couple potatoes)

and, opening the closet door, decided against wearing her ratty raincoat.

Why couldn‟t Jan have thought it was hers and given it away to charity or

something. She settled for the sweatshirt and jeans she had on and

slipped on a pair of loafers and went out to Gyro.

   “Hey, boy, how‟s tricks?” she asked the car, patting the hood fondly as

she crossed in front of it to the driver‟s door. Maybe she shouldn‟t make

so many friends among inanimate objects, she wondered. If she hadn‟t

disturbed Jan last week, had paid more attention all along, maybe she

wouldn‟t be in quite as bad a fix as she was now. Gyro wouldn‟t start.

   “Don‟t like that theory? I‟m sorry, boy, I do love you best!” Next

time, the car engine turned over. “It‟s you and me, Gyro, you and me,”

Kathy grinned again. Her father was right, laughter and smiling really did

help one‟s mood.

   She drove through the first apartment complex on her list and decided

it looked even worse than the garden apartments she checked across

from the mall. “What if I have been spoiled living in a cute little cottage,

all our own, Gyro?” She asked her little green car. “We‟re running out of

time here and working on two fronts, the housing and the job, both at

once, ain‟t making things easier!”

   Suddenly weary from lack of sleep and discouraged about the size of

the problems in front of her, Kathy decided to abort the apartment

looking for today and just go get the groceries and go back to the cottage

and work on her accounting and getting that out of the way.

   She got everything on her list and was proud of herself for not getting

anything more. Now that she wasn‟t working she was going to really

have to watch her budget. However, next to the grocery store was a

liquor store and she strayed in that direction, first telling herself she had

forgotten to put any soda on her list and could get it there. She did but

also bought a box of wine. Kathy loved gadgets and unique ideas and the

idea of wine in a box always amused her.

   It was a little early but the Cornish hen would take a little while to

cook so she put the single baking potato and the hen in the oven and

poured herself a Styrofoam cup of wine. Besides, it was a Sunday, she

could have dinner early and maybe supper later on. She replaced the

grocery bag she had been using for the trash with a real trash bag and

divided her cleaning supplies and took some to the bathroom on her way

back to her room with the wine.

   The accounting seemed to get easier the more wine she drank. She

was on the last problem when she decided by smell that her dinner was

ready. She had bought what she thought of as plastic paper plates, 3P‟s,

which concept always made her smile, and now arrayed her Cornish hen,

baked potato (pepper only, no fat, she‟d use a bit of the juices from the

hen to moisten it) and her canned Le Sueur peas (named after the area

of Minnesota they were grown in) on one, made sure she had several

paper towels for napkins, plastic fork and knife and she grabbed the

bottle of wine too; it was almost finished, no point in pouring it into a

cup, she‟d just drink it from the bottle.

   It was a feast and her last accounting problem was done in no time

but did have a wine ring on her notes where she‟d placed the bottle.

When had she spilled some that it would make a ring? She didn‟t recall.

Now what should she do? It was too early for bed and too late for much

else on a Sunday night. Maybe she should call Alex again. He wouldn‟t

be on a date on a Sunday night she didn‟t think.

   Kathy picked up her cell phone and called up his number but just

looked at it for awhile, thinking about their last breakup. Alex was too

kind for her. He did too much and let her have her own way all the time.

She‟d finally gotten really mad when he‟d gone and talked to her parents

behind her back, had intervened in the business/history argument. She‟d

felt like a baby unable to manage her own affairs. She felt too like she

relied on Alex too much. Like now, she was hoping he would help her

find a place or at least figure out where to move her stuff and help her

with that. It wasn‟t like she had a whole lot of other friends though to

ask. Kathy sighed and pushed the green call button.

   Alex picked up on the first ring, “Hello? Kathy?”

   “Uh, Al-hicx?” She hadn‟t expected him to answer on the first ring. “I

think I have the hicc-ups.”

   “Kathy? Have you been drinking? What‟s wrong?”

   Why did he think there was something wrong and how the heck did he

know she was drinking or even that it was her on the phone? Idiot, he

can read that it‟s your number coming up; you‟ve only ever called him

about a million times!

   “Nothing, nothing‟s wr-ong.” Kathy almost started to cry with

frustration; she hated being drunk. “Just hicc-ups and I just have a b-

unch going on is all. Can we, can we meet for dinner or something this


   “I can come over right now; where are you? Are you sure you‟re all


   Good old Alex. At least she could depend on him.

   “No, no. I‟m f-ine. Tuesday night, Scrum‟s, six o‟cl-ock. Oh, fuck,

that‟s Amy. Tomorrow, Happy Boo-dah,” Kathy giggled. “Tomorrrow, H-

appy Buddha, si-o‟clock. Gotta go, nice talking, Alex, bye” and she

pressed the red disconnect button, but not before hitting a few adjacent

buttons as well.

            uckily, Kathy scribbled something down so she had the day,

            time, and place and who she was meeting when, because she

            had a horrible headache when she woke the next day and

could barely see for the pain behind her eyes. She had followed the

bottle of wine with three of the beers and this morning she couldn‟t drink

enough soda to put a dent in her thirst.

   Oh, great, she thought, now I‟ll have insomnia tonight from too much

caffeine.   She grabbed another soda from the refrigerator and used it to

down a couple aspirin. She didn‟t really remember much after her call to

Alex. So much for the worry that someone was going to break into the

cottage at night and rape, purder, millage and burn her while she was

alone, too; she walked over and discovered she‟d left the kitchen door


   Monday. She had Edita and hadn‟t written the story for her like she

wanted. Screw that. “My but we‟re getting vulgar these days, aren‟t

we?” she admonished herself. “The Master Clock wouldn‟t like or do

that,” she had forgotten if she‟d decide if she were he or if they were just

good friends. Maybe the Master Clock was a she? Enough. She had to
go over her money again and look at where she was with her words and

list of things to do and decide what and how to talk to Edita. She was

obviously failing at coming up for air, she knew she was flailing, as Alex

sometimes pointed out, and that usually meant she was drowning.

   There was little food left in the refrigerator and she badly wanted a

good cup of coffee so jumped in Gyro and went up to the nearby

convenience store. At least that was one benefit of being without a job;

there weren‟t many customers going on ten o‟clock on a Monday


   She made a coffee in the back but, getting her money out, discovered

she only had a ten dollar bill and one and getting ready to pay, felt

uncomfortable using such a large bill for one item so looked around

quickly for something else small to buy. She noticed the case of scratch

off lottery tickets and asked for one.

   “Which one you want?” the clerk asked.

   “The purple one there,” she decided. It was top row, closest to them

and easy to point to. The clerk tore if off and slapped it down next to the

cup of coffee.

   Yikes! It was a ten dollar ticket. She almost told him she didn‟t want

it but then realized she‟d asked for it and it was torn off and hers. She‟d

have to charge it and the coffee. Twelve dollars and eleven cents.

   “Okay, that‟s it,” she berated herself getting into the car. “We can‟t

have that kind of behavior anymore. You MUST start paying attention,

Kathy! There‟s no ifs, ands, or buts about it!” At the same time she was

berating herself, Kathy was searching for something sharp to start the

scratch off of the lottery ticket and finally decided on her car keys.

   “Wish me luck, Gyro; I could really use it now.” There were twenty-

one chances to win, the ticket declared. She went down the row of

nineteen looking for a 7 or a diamond symbol. Nothing. She scratched

off the six spot area that needed three of a kind, nothing. Last chance,

“Reveal any prize amount, win that amount.” She read. She took a deep

breath and scratched, revealing, “Please try again.” Shit. “Oh, Kat,

please stop with the swearing,” she begged her inner self, feeling


   Back home she took the rest of the coffee, and another soda back with

her to her room. She really wanted to lie down but forced herself to sit at

her desk and open her computer files and drag out the trusty clipboard

lists and her journal from her backpack.
   Kathy decided she needed some karma before she went to see Edita

so picked a single word from her bowl. The two she‟d picked previously,

“story” and “school” were too ubiquitous in her life; this time she picked,

“reason”. Yes, it would be nice to know the reason all this was


   She looked at her finances again and they hadn‟t improved. She had

no prospects for apartments or jobs. All she had was her accounting

homework worksheet done. She logged into her online school account

and uploaded her work. Good thing she didn‟t have to turn in her notes.

What was she going to drink tonight with Alex? Not wine, that was for


   So what was her feelings about this whole synchronicity study? Last

week Jan had still been her roommate and she‟d still had a job. The

coincidences or whatever they were were certainly interesting but she

couldn‟t see that they‟d helped her in any way. Maybe she was paying

more attention but how could she say that after the ten dollar lottery

ticket this morning? What could she do, where could she go? She had a

few more apartments she wanted to check out but with no job she had no

chance of getting them. She wanted to check out jobs with cleaning

companies, but not really. Maybe she‟d go to the chain bookstore and

get their form, apply for a job there on her way to Edita's.

   With that idea in mind, Kathy and Gyro set out again. Immediately on

entering the store, Robert Jordan‟s new hardback, The Gathering Storm

was prominently displayed. Well, too bad Dave Adams, I hope you are

enjoying it, she thought. She went to the information desk and inquired

about job applications and they told her they were kept up front. Next to

the information desk was a table of “classics” and James Fenimore Cooper

and The Pathfinder jumped out at her from there. Jeez, she thought, if

it‟s not synchronicity, what is it? I definitely need a pathfinder through

the gathering storm!

   She was good and didn‟t pick up any books or other materials, snaked

through the line for the front registers empty handed. The clerk there

had a clue and had a pad of job application forms and tore one off and

gave it to Kathy and she was out of the store again. She arrived at

Edita‟s early again this week and pulled out her trusty clipboard and

started filling out the form.

   Again Edita was ready for her almost as soon as she sat down in the

waiting room.

   “Kathy?” she waved her into her office.

   Kathy loved the office they met in now. It was actually the clinic

director‟s office so much more comfortable than many they‟d met in

before. Edita and the director were of the same rank as Kathy

understood that concept and so Edita could get the better rooms in the

clinic to meet her clients in. This room looked like a living room, had

glass-shelved bookcases and a soft-cushioned couch she say catty

cornered in a matching armchair. There was a glass-topped coffee table

with a design under the glass and Edita had a footstool that went the

chair she used. Kathy sat kind of sideways on the couch so didn‟t really

care that she didn‟t have a footstool too, she could stretch her legs out or

use the couch to help support at least one knee.

   Kathy sat, or lounged, on the couch and just looked at Edita for a

moment. The therapist looked back at her expectantly, kindly.

   “First I lost the cottage and then my job,” Kathy opened with. “Jan

sort of betrayed me and went behind my back to the Websters, the

people in the big house we rent from? And told them she was moving

and didn‟t tell me. I went to see Mrs. Webster and she just assumed Jan

and I were moving together so I have to be out the weekend before

Thanksgiving. Next weekend. Then just last Saturday the bookstore
closed. Dr. Rogers didn‟t tell me until Saturday morning when I showed

up. She‟d already laid off Amy the previous Wednesday and there was

just her and me working and then she decided to close the store

altogether and move the books and things home and operate it by herself

on the Internet.”

   “Did you ask Mrs. Webster if you can stay longer? I imagine you and

Jan are paid through the month.”

   “Yes, I asked but their daughter is moving in with her kid over

Thanksgiving. She told me if I really needed I could probably stay

through Thanksgiving but you could tell she didn‟t really want that.”

   “What did your parents say? Why don‟t you move home with them for

awhile, until you can find another place and job?”

   “I didn‟t tell them yet. I don‟t want to move home with them,” even to

herself, Kathy sounded like a bratty child. “I‟ve been doing pretty good

looking at a couple other apartments and I went to the big bookstore

chain store and got their application just before I came here,” she pulled

out the clipboard with the partly filled out application on it and flashed it

at Edita.

   “That sounds good, tell me what else you‟ve been doing.”
   “I called Amy and I‟m going to meet her for dinner, Tuesday night. I

even called Alex and I‟m meeting him for dinner tonight. I‟ll see if he can

help me move or something. Dr. Rogers was upset when she learned I

had lost my housing so she wants me to come see her on Wednesday at

her office at the University and she‟ll see if she can get some leads on

housing or jobs or something.” She didn‟t mention getting drunk the

night before or how miserable she was living alone in the empty cottage.

   “That sounds like you‟re pretty busy in your behalf and have some

friends to help,” Edita smiled.

   “Yeah, I guess so. But I don‟t want to move home with my parents

and the apartments I‟ve looked at are both not good enough and too

expensive. Amy lives at home and is going to be going to school full

time, her dad‟s paying and so she can‟t get an apartment with me and I

don‟t know what I expect Alex to do and we broke up last time because

he always does too much. Remember, he went and tried to get my

parents to let me take history courses after my stepmother got mad I

wasn‟t concentrating on business. I‟d hate to see what she‟d do now if

she knew I‟m only taking two classes and one of them is history again.”

   “Am I digging myself a hole again?” Kathy asked suddenly.

   Edita gave her a cocked-head, curious bird sort of look. “What do you

think?” she countered.

   “I guess so. It feels like I‟m looking for things that are wrong. I had a

lot more things happen with my synchronicity words but I guess you

don‟t want to hear about them. The guy that wanted the book that I was

supposed to order for him came back to the store Friday but I had

forgotten to order the book. It was funny, Dr. Rogers suggested I tell

him we‟d have it for him tomorrow, meaning Saturday, and she‟d go

Friday night and buy it at the chain store and we‟d pretend we had just

gotten it but he didn‟t want to come back and said he‟d just go to the

chain store himself. Well, when I went in to apply for a job, guess which

book was right out front, first thing? And then when I went to the back

to the information desk thinking they might have job applications the

table next to them was classics and full of James Fenimore Cooper books

which is what I did my paper on and what the school girl wanted week

before last.”

   The psychologist didn‟t say anything, just looked thoughtful.

   “Did I tell you I‟m going to see if there are any jobs as maids or on

cleaning crews, that sort of thing? Jan moved out completely but didn‟t

clean anything. The kitchen and bathroom are a mess and I‟ll have to
clean them this week. But that‟s kind of good as I have lots of time. But

that‟s what gave me the idea.”

   “Would you like that kind of job?”

   “I don‟t know. Right now I‟d like any kind of job so I wouldn‟t feel like

I‟m in no-man‟s land being fired at from all sides.”

   “Is that what you feel like? You seem to be doing all the right things

to find a job and place to live. You‟ve contacted friends and are brain

storming, looking into possibilities. In what way do you feel like you‟re

being fired on from all sides?”

   “I don‟t know. It‟s just that I‟m doing stuff but it‟s like I‟m spinning

my wheels, I don‟t feel like I‟m getting anywhere but meanwhile bad

things keep happening. I could deal with losing the cottage okay but

then losing my job. Now I‟m worried about my budget and how I‟m going

to pay you for very much longer.” Kathy was sure she was going to start

to cry soon and she didn‟t want that. “But I guess everything will come

out all right. All I can do is keep trying.”

   “Remember too, circumstances keep changing and you are certainly

trying hard and, I think, really doing well dealing with all this.”

   Both Kathy and Edita just sat for a moment.

   “It‟s time for us to stop now,” Edita finally said, apologetically.

   This week Kathy had remembered to make out her payment check

ahead of time so handed it to the therapist and left quickly. She wasn‟t

sure if she felt better, worse, or anything at all. It did feel a little good

that Edita thought she was doing well dealing so she tried to think about

that as she drove back to the cottage.

              ear the cottage, Kathy stopped by a storage place to see

              how much their rooms cost. She wanted somewhere to

              put some of her stuff so she could move things at her pace.

But they were more than her current broken budget would allow and

required a six month commitment. She did buy a couple boxes though to

put some more clothes and stuff in.

   She worked on packing, loading up the back of the Subaru, and

cleaning the bathroom some until it was time to shower before she left to

meet Alex for dinner.

   Kathy had to look at her clipboard scribbles to make sure she was

supposed to meet him at The Happy Buddha like she thought she

remembered. She didn‟t like remembering, but the sound of her drunken

self giggling after saying, “Happy Boo-dha” wouldn‟t leave her. What was

she going to say about her life and how was she going to keep control so

Alex didn‟t try to take over, she wondered.

   “Alex!” One hurdle down, they had arrived the same time and saw

each other out in the parking lot.

   “Hi, Kat.” He came and stood in front of her just looking at her, not

touching. “How are you?”

   “Sorry about last night,” she quickly got out of the way. “I was really

tired.   There‟s been a lot of helping Jan move out and me working longer

hours at the bookstore trying to save it. . .” Neither statement was

strictly true but both seemed stretchable to that point. “But tell me what

you‟ve been up to?” Kathy was a master of nothing if not changing the


   Alex waited until they were seated and then filled her in on his doings

of the last month or so since Kathy had told him she needed more space.

   “Well, as you know I‟m taking a few fewer courses this semester and

working a bit longer at the dealership, racking up some money and

experience there. Paul and Jamie are doing okay. Jamie‟s engaged to

Sharon, did you know? Asked her on her birthday.” Paul and Jamie were

Alex‟s roommates. They were in the same fraternity at the university and

had known each other since they were boys.

   “I‟m looking for a place to live now that Jan has moved. She got a

promotion at work and bought herself a condo and asked Tom to move in

with her. The cottage owners, up in the castle, thought Jan and I were a

pair and were moving together when Jan told them she was moving and

they have their daughter and granddaughter moving in over

   “Didn‟t Jan tell you?”

   “Nope.   Not until we were in the middle of another of our fights.”

   “Oh, Kathy, what was this one about?” Alex knew all about Jan and

Kathy‟s weird fights. He and Tom got along pretty well and the two guys

had had to help smooth things over between the two girls many times.

   “Grapes and how long to cook something in the microwave,” she


   Alex grinned back at her. “Let me guess. You like red grapes and she

likes green?”

   That made Kathy laugh. “Bingo! I ate all her grapes and tried to

replace them so she wouldn‟t notice but I bought the wrong color!”

   They both laughed and Alex extended his hand across the table and

Kathy took it. All was forgiven for the moment and they were back

together, a team again.

   “So, are you going to move home or what?” Alex asked.

   “I really don‟t want to move home. I‟m feeling a bit overwhelmed

though with no housing prospects and no job. I‟m going to hit the Mall

tomorrow, ask a few stores and people about jobs but Amy said she did

that after she was laid off a couple weeks ago and that no one‟s hiring.”

   “You may have to move home. That sucks. I‟ll help with your stuff

but with my work hours these days I can‟t do much until Saturday after

Noon or one. Maybe by then you‟ll have a place to go. Did you look at

storing your stuff? Maybe you could stay at the Y or a youth hostel or

something until you get a job if you don‟t want to move home. What did

your therapist say? You still seeing her?”

   “Yeah, Edita suggested I move home too. I have a few other

possibilities to check out first in the next few days. I think Dr. Rogers

was shocked when she realized I didn‟t have a place to stay either and

told me to come see her Wednesday and that she‟d look into jobs and

housing. I hope she has good friends. Mrs. Webster mouthed the usual,

let-me-know-if-I-can-help line and I really liked her, we had a good

conversation and she made me tea and we sat in her kitchen and

everything but I can‟t imagine what she could do.”

   They were finished their dessert and Kathy was fishing in her purse

when Alex grabbed the check from the waitress, “I‟ll get it.” She let him

but felt badly about it. She‟d been rummaging, not planning to find her

wallet but in the hopes he‟d grab the bill; she still only had the $11 in
from this morning and the lottery ticket fiasco and knew the bill was more

than double that.

   “How is being in the house without Jan there?” Alex asked as they

walked to their cars. “Is that good, all the quiet and not having to put up

with someone else? I‟d think I had died and gone to heaven if I had my

own place, not that I‟m at our place much anymore with working and


   “It‟s quiet all right.” Kathy answered. “I guess it‟s a bit lonely since

it‟s empty. An empty house isn‟t the same as one‟s own place. “It‟s

really kind of depressing. I‟ll be glad when I get all moved somewhere

else and either furnish it or have a roommate.”

   “Do you want me to come stay for a few days? I will if you want; I

have a sleeping bag, could probably rustle up a camp cot or something,”

Alex offered.

   “No, no.” Kathy quickly tried to assure him. “I‟m fine, I will just be

glad when things are more back to normal.” There he goes again she

thought, trying to take care of me. Well, you should tell him this time!

Nip it in the bud.
   “Alex, you can‟t live my life for me. . .”

   “I‟m sorry,” Alex immediately started apologizing, “I just hate standing

by and watching you struggle. I really care for you Kat and wish there

were something I could do to help.”

   “That‟s okay,” Kathy backed off, “you are helping, Alex, more than you

know. Just being here and now knowing I can count on your help moving

this weekend, wherever I end up, that‟s great.”

   “Well,” Alex said lamely, “call me if there‟s anything else I can do, will


   “You know I will.” Alex opened Kathy‟s car door for her and Kathy

kissed him on the cheek and got in the car. As she drove off, she looked

in her rear view mirror and Alex was getting into his car, not just

standing looking after her like a lovesick puppy. Good, she thought, he‟s

getting better at concentrating on his own life instead of mine so much.

               fter her dinner with Alex, Kathy slept well for the first time

               since Jan had told her she was leaving and had actually left.

               She awoke Tuesday morning much more hopeful too.

   She was going to the Mall today to check for jobs, get a blouse to go

with the new skirt and vest outfit she and Pat had made so she‟d feel

better around her mother at Thanksgiving, and then she another dinner

with Amy.

   Maybe she should get another twenty dollars out of the money

machine and see if she couldn‟t get the thirty to last her the rest of the


   Kathy‟s bank was near the chain bookstore so she finished filling out

her application, went to the money machine and then on to the

bookstore. The line was not bad, she knew to go to the front with her


   “I just want to turn in the employment application,” she told the clerk

when it was her turn.

   “Oh, you don‟t turn that in here, you just get it here. I would go to

the information desk; you need to turn it in to a supervisor and there‟s

usually one there or they can tell you where one is or call one.”
   Kathy shook her head in disbelief. They couldn‟t tell her this the first

time? She thanked the clerk anyway and walked back to the information

desk and, fortunately, there was a supervisor there and the rest of the

transaction went smoothly. Kathy did think to ask when she might hear

something but the supervisor said she didn‟t know; the hiring came from

the head office and her application would be forwarded there.

   Kathy did get one bit of good information; if she was selected for an

interview and to be hired, she might not be working at this store but

some other. The supervisor said they tried to keep you close to where

you lived but had to fill vacancies where they needed people.

   Kathy was relieved to see the supervisor immediately take her

application and walk toward the store office instead of continuing on up

front in public with what she had been doing, just putting down her

application where anyone could see it. With that reassurance she left the

store and continued on to the Mall.

   “Kathy, what are you doing here this time of day? You taking a break

from the store?” Carol, the sewing store owner asked. She was usually

first to see people enter the store as she worked out front while most of

the teachers and students were working in the back room.

   “No. I got laid off from my job at the store, that‟s what I‟m doing here

at the Mall, looking to see if anyone needs any help. You don‟t do you,

Carol?” Kathy almost scowled. Why had she asked so negatively? You‟d

think she hadn‟t had either single English writing course or a business


   “Kathy,” Pat called, coming from the back room. “What are you doing

here, I thought we were skipping meeting until after Thanksgiving?”

   “I was just telling Carol I got laid off up at Boundless books on

Saturday; the store closed! I was looking for a job,” she grinned to

appear light-hearted and as if she didn‟t care about getting one, was just

out on a lark. “But I guess I probably should cancel the December 2 date

with you,” she went on more seriously, “at least until I get a job and can

pay you?”   She grinned again and Pat grinned back but Carol was still

looking somber.

   “No, sorry, Kathy, I don‟t have any work here, did you try the big

department store yet?”

   “Not yet, but I was going to do that next. I mostly came to see if Pat

was here and postpone our next meeting.” She thanked Carol again and

turned from her to Pat.

   “Let me get my calendar,” Pat responded. Kathy followed her into the

back room. “I was just finishing up lunch, I don‟t have a customer until


   “I can‟t figure out what to do with no roof over my head and no job.

I‟m sure it will all resolve itself and I can get back to my usual habits but

I sure wish it would hurry.”

   “How about moving home? I know your stepmother wasn‟t fun to live

with when you were a teen but wouldn‟t it be all right for a short time

until things do resolve?”

   “Not really. She‟s still treats me like I‟m incapable of running my own

life and I‟d really like it to look like I can at least!” Kathy gave a faint


   Pat reached over and gently stroked Kathy‟s arm like she might a

beloved cat. “Well, as you say, I‟m sure it will work out. You know I‟m

here if you want to come in and talk.”

   “Yeah,” Kathy said, embarrassed. “I know, but I do already have a

shrink, sorry,” and she tried to give Pat a look to tell her she appreciated

Pat and her concern but couldn‟t deal with the expression of mushy,

caring, stuff too well.
   “Well. You‟ll call me when you want to get together again. Good luck

with the job search and apartment hunt.”

   Kathy had walked a few steps away and turned sideways and now just

gave an extra little wave and walked back into the front area of the store.

Carol didn‟t seem to see her so Kathy hurried quickly out of the store so

she wouldn‟t have to endure any more good wishes.

   She decided to buy a blouse for her Thanksgiving outfit next and then

go from the women‟s department of the store to the office section and

see about a job.

   Kathy found a dressy white blouse with frills on sale and bought that

as well as a regular Oxford-style, slightly less formal blue blouse that

would work well if she wanted to wear the outfit to a new job. She had

created a little bookkeeping application on her phone so she could keep

track of how much she was spending. She frowned as she finished

entering what the blouses had cost her.

   The store had an employment form to fill out, like the bookstore, but

required her to do it there. Luckily she had a copy of her resume in her

purse so she copied information off of that. They said they would call her

before Thanksgiving if they were interested.    She didn‟t have any

questions so left the office and decided to stop at the food court and get

something to eat. She wasn‟t meeting Amy for a couple hours yet.

   Reminded of Amy, she realized Amy didn‟t know she had lost her job

yet. Maybe Amy had news of her own and had a lead on job possibilities.

This thought cheered Kathy and she decided she had done enough job

seeking for the day and went back to the cottage to do more packing and


   Kathy learned that she got a lot of thinking done scrubbing floors. She

realized she had to fill out a change of address with the post office soon,

or call all her creditors and have her mail go. . . where? Damn. She

stripped off the left rubber glove and found her clipboard list and wrote

that down on the things-to-do section. She had just changed the

university‟s contact address from her parents to here, too, after the fight

over the history course. Now what was she going to do? How could she

make sure she was home every day for a week or two after grades came

out next month? It was in her name too, now, but she didn‟t think her

stepmother would notice and not open it since it was from the school.

She‟d have to think further about that.

   “Hey, Mr. Clock Radio, why didn‟t you tell me I could quit with the

cleaning and leave for dinner? You still mad at me and Emily?” Kathy
joked. “You know,” she continued, looking at the list of words she‟d

picked, abandoned on the desk next to the clipboard list of practical

tasks, “we never did figure out „hat,‟ „picture,‟ „string,‟ „room,‟ and „travel‟

very well did we?” There was Caroline‟s Halloween princess hat and

Monet‟s sailboat picture she‟d loved in the dining room, and the dream

about her father and the tangled string of Christmas lights, “All nice

coincidences, as Edita calls them,” she accented the word „coincidence‟

when she said it to make sure the clock knew she didn‟t agree with that

name. “But nothing like you and Time his Wheel making History.” Kathy

was thoughtful as she peeled off the other rubber glove and placed the

pair neatly on the edge of her desk.

   “Green Lady?” she stood solemnly, turned so as to face the clock

radio. “I don‟t know if you can hear me but I‟m going to pretend the

clock radio can help. . . I know the dream I had of you was True and that

I‟m supposed to be doing things more on my own and getting my act

together, growing into my own Self as a Woman and and all and I do see

the benefit of having to move out of here and losing my job and all that

but please, could you give me a sign that everything is really going to be

okay? I just feel so lonely and confused and know you help me when I

really need it. I don‟t mean to be a baby about it and. . .” A couple tears

rolled down her face and startled her.

   “And why am I talking to a clock radio like it‟s alive? Kathy, you‟re a

mess,” she rounded on herself, embarrassed. “Go meet Amy for dinner!”

She was surprised though, how much better she felt after her confession.

   Amy got to the restaurant after Kathy because she assumed Kathy

would be getting off work and would be later than she.

   “Kathy! “ she exclaimed when she saw her already seated in the booth

across the room from the front door. “How did you get here before me?

Am I late?” Amy asked, shrugging out of her coat and trying to scoot into

the seat across from Kathy.

   “Hi, Amy. No, you‟re not late; Anita had to lay me off too, Saturday,”

Kathy answered, simply.

   “Oh, no! Did you find another place to move to? You have to move

out of the cottage, right? Tell me all!” she demanded.

   “No, I don‟t have a place to move to and I‟m hoping you have a couple

job ideas I might have missed. I have the apartment search on hold until

I find a job but Anita wants to see me tomorrow at her office at the Uni

and says she might have a lead for either or both. I looked at a couple

apartment buildings but they‟re horrible, I‟d be depressed before I even

moved in, especially without a roommate, which is what I‟d hoping you

could be when I called you.”

   The waiter came and they ordered a medium pepperoni and

mushroom pizza to share and two sodas.

   “Oh, that might work if you can find a job,” Amy replied. “My parents

are pretty understanding about my not wanting to live at home, offered

to pay for a dorm room but that‟s worse than home.” She let her mouth

hang open and rolled her eyes to illustrate how bad she thought it would

be, living in a dorm.

   Kathy had lived in a dorm her first year in college and it had been kind

of fun. She didn‟t know if she would like it now though, being older, as

she and Amy were. Dorms were too much like sleep overs one went to in

high school. A sorority might be different.

   “Well, I think I might take a dorm room now if I could get one,” Kathy

said. “Anything might be better than the humiliation of moving home

with my parents again. Your parents are cool and you‟ve stayed at home

the last couple years, but my stepmother has already given me enough

grief around college that I just want to graduate and get on with my life.”

   “I applied at a couple Mall stores for jobs but haven‟t heard anything.

I was thinking of applying to maid or janitorial service firms,” Kathy

continued. “Jan and Tom just sort of moved her out, almost under the

cover of darkness,” she grinned.

   “An ooh habent heard from her since?” Amy asked with her mouth full

of hot pizza. She waited until she‟d finished chewing to continue, “That‟s

weird. Doesn‟t seem quite like Jan to act like that does it?”

   Kathy quit smiling and felt a little ashamed. “Well, it wasn‟t quite like

that; we were arguing and we had notes back and forth because we kept

missing one another in person. I guess I‟d be pretty excited about buying

my own place and I guess I‟d want a guy to live with instead of a dumb

old girlfriend who I kept having to argue with.”

   “You‟re not a dumb, old girlfriend! Why, you introduced she and Tom

to each other, didn‟t you?” Amy pointed out. “And you all just saw things

different, is all. I guess you weren‟t the best match for roommates. I

don‟t think Jan has as good a sense of humor as you do, Kathy, and

despite her wonderful pottery, she‟s not as imaginative and creative as

you are, either.”

   “Well, I don‟t know about that, but I certainly appreciate your

support,” she grinned again.

   “Anyway, do you want to help Alex and me. . .”

   “You‟re back with Alex?” Amy whooped, “You didn‟t tell me all!”

   “Yeah, we had dinner last night and made up,” Kathy answered shyly.

“But you want to help us move my stuff somewhere this Saturday? I can

ask him if his cute roommate, Paul, can help too; the other one, Jamie,

just got engaged.”

   “Sure! What time?”

   “Alex is working until Noon or One. Why don‟t you come over a bit

early and we can talk some more, make sure we‟re all caught up,” Kathy

suggested, pulling the twenty dollar bill out of her wallet and putting it on

the table.

   “It‟s not that much,” Amy said, looking at the bill, her wallet in her

other hand.

   “That‟s okay, I asked you out, you can pay next time and you are

helping me this weekend,” Kathy smiled as she took the bill out of Amy‟s

hand and handed it and the twenty to the passing waiter. “Keep the

change,” she told him.

   The two girls hugged before getting into their respective cars and

heading to their respective temporary homes.

            he next two nights were difficult ones for Kathy but each for

            different reasons. She was alone in an empty, isolated

            cottage Tuesday night and Wednesday dawned cooler than

normal and rainy.

   Kathy used the rest of her instant coffee but that was not satisfactory.

It did get her up, dressed, and she got some paper work done; copied

over her lists and things to do. She was rather pleased with all she‟d

done so far. She decided to treat herself to Dunkin Donuts again and

then go by the post office. She had had the brilliant idea to rent a box for

awhile, until she had somewhere new to live. She‟d worry about the

school address next month. If she moved home, she sure hoped it wasn‟t

going to be through Christmas to the new year!

   Finished at the post office, Kathy went on to the university. It was still

too early to meet Dr. Rogers but that was okay; she had the last of her

stuff in the back that would fit into her bit at the university.   It would

have been nicer if it wasn‟t raining but there were temporary parking

spots at the student union so it wasn‟t too bad. Everything else would

have to be moved somewhere on Saturday. After she finished emptying

out her car, she ran upstairs and grabbed a sub and soda to go from the


   She moved her car to the lot closer to the Business School building

and ate her sandwich. Still, she was early arriving at Anita‟s office and

that turned out fortuitous because when she arrived, Dr. Rogers was just

leaving and locking up her office door.

   “Kathy! I was just going to leave a message for you on the door. I

have to run but since you‟re here now, let me grab what I have for you.”

The professor unlocked the door and walked the couple of steps over to

her desk. Kathy moved forward too, into the doorway.

   The staff offices were furnished by the school and only large enough

for a desk and high-backed chair with dark, poorly varnished bookcases

on the far side, and a couple of less comfortable chairs for guests in front

of the desk. Professor Rogers was senior enough to have a window, and
a tiny closet opposite that, next to the door, and there was a white board

across the wall from the desk. Dr. Rogers had added five-drawer, green,

metal, filing cabinets to the right side of the white board and a tall, thin,

Japanese print in beiges, olive greens and black to the left to balance it.

Above the filing cabinet was a small Impressionist print, most of the color

in the room, so one‟s eye was drawn to it first.

   “Dr. Rogers, I love your window treatments.” This statement was part

of an ongoing joke between Anita and Kathy from when they were

working together in the Entrepreneurial class. Kathy thought it was

especially funny now, with the closing of the bookstore mess and the

obvious hurry Dr. Rogers was in at the moment.

   Anita smiled at her and handed her a file. “Yes, I made them myself,”

she played along for a moment but then continued more seriously, “I

called in a favor and found a dorm room you can stay in at least through

November, Kathy. There‟s no one in the room now, apparently both

young women withdrew the same week. But in December they will

probably be adding someone else.”

   “Oh.” Kathy hoped she hid some of the disappointment she felt. It

was better than moving home, as she‟d told Amy, but was not exactly

what she was looking for.
   “Here‟s a key,” Anita said handing her a small manila envelope. “You

have to go to the Business Office before they close on Friday, fill out and

hand in the form you will find in the folder, as well as pay the pro-rated

amount through this semester,” she finished up, picking up her own

papers and shooing Kathy out of the doorway so she could close up


   “Thank you,” Kathy said. “I‟ll check it out. I had dinner with Amy the

other night and she‟s doing well, she‟s going to be coming to school full-

time next semester. She and some other friends, including Alex,” they

looked at each other and smiled, “will help me move my stuff, wherever,

this weekend.”

   “That‟s fine. I really have to go. But, Kathy, keep in touch and let me

know how things are going, will you?” She placed her hand for a second

on Kathy‟s shoulder.

   “Yes. . . sure. I‟ll let you know.”

   They smiled at one another again before Kathy ducked her head and

escaped into the near-by stairwell, down and out. She imagined Dr.

Rogers would take the elevator if she was going out of the building and

Kathy didn‟t want to think how uncomfortable it would be walking along

with her and riding, silently, together with her in the elevator and having

to say good byes all again when they got outside. She wished she could

get over feeling like a little kid when she was with adult women. She

guessed it had to do with her stepmother. Well, duh, she thought, you

don‟t need Edita to tell you that.

   She stopped walking and opened the folder to see where the room

was. She‟d go check it out and see what she needed, go back to the

cottage and get a few things and spend the night, give it a trial run. She

had the key, didn‟t she, and had until Friday to do the paperwork and

pay. She noted which dorm it was, looked quickly at the enclosed map

and started walking again in that direction. She flipped through the other

pages in the folder as she walked, looking for how much she‟d have to

pay; a little more than five hundred. She could swing that. Some of the

form was partially filled out with her name and information; Anita must

have given them that or they‟d gotten it from her records. She supposed

they needed to make sure it wasn‟t transferrable, that she didn‟t give to

Amy or something.

   The form mentioned a parking fee also, if she had a car. She hadn‟t

considered that. She looked at the map again and thought about where

she was parked, near Dr. Roger‟s office and where the dorm was and

where she‟d have to park if she lived there. The two parking lots and two

buildings were all widely spaced apart. Well, at least I‟ll get some


   The dorm turned out to be one of the newer ones, high rise, which she

didn‟t like, but with nice lounges and floor kitchen areas. There were lots

of vending machines too, for snacks. Where was her head? She‟d

completely forgotten about food and that problem. Since she wasn‟t

really a full-time student and would presumably be working, what was

she going to do about eating?

   The room number she‟d been given was 227. At least it wasn‟t too

high if the elevators went out or she was in a hurry. She was fumbling

through her purse to find her Student ID to get in the building, an

annoying but also comforting security feature, but someone on the inside

was coming out and held the door open for her to go in. Kind of defeated

the purpose. There was an open elevator so she took it up to the second

floor, found 227 and opened the door. Pastel, pinky beige, cinderblock,

steel prison beds and cheap fabricated wood and plastic dresser, desks,

and a single desk chair. That would be interesting when she got a

roommate. She went over to look in the closets.

  “Hello?” a voice said just out of sight to her left. Kathy turned back to

the door and a woman who looked to be a year or two older than herself

stood smiling in the doorway.

  “Can I help you?” Kathy asked. Ouch, enough with the sales person

approach. “I‟m sorry, hi, I‟m Kathy,” she tried again, extending her


  “Hi, Kathy, I‟m Lisa, one of the dorm grad students,” the woman

responded, shaking Kathy‟s hand. “I don‟t mean to disturb; I was just

passing by and saw the door open and knew the two who use to live

here. Are you going to be moving in, taking their place?”

  “Hi, Lisa. I‟m not sure. I have to move out of my off campus housing

and a friend,” Kathy accented the last two words and gave Lisa an

exaggerated wink, “knew of this vacancy and got me the forms and a


  “Ah, the old friend trick! Well, good for you. You need any help with

moving any stuff in?”

  “No, I think I‟m going to go back to my current place and get my

sleeping bag and a few other things, come back and see how it goes

tonight. Is this a relatively quiet floor or party floor or what? I‟m kind of

older and will be working a lot of my time I think.”

   “Well, it‟s mostly juniors and seniors; they like the bottom floors so

they still have access if something goes wrong with the power or the

elevators go out, which they do. What year are you?”

   “I‟m a senior but I‟m taking my time about it,” Kathy grinned. “I was

in Lancaster dorm my first two and a half years but dropped out and then

started going part-time and working full –time instead. My friend,” and

Kathy exaggerated the word and winked again, “was my boss and just

laid me off too so I first lost my apartment when my roommate bought

her own condo and then lost my job: the old one-two punch.”

   “Egads. Well, hurry up and graduate and become a poor grad student

like me; my rooms free but I have to put up with a lot of freshmen and

sophomores for that, you may not find it worth it.

   “Well, I‟ll let you go,” Lisa continued. “I‟m on the ground floor, there‟s

a couple apartment-like suites off the lobby, I‟m in L3 if you need

anything. Nice meeting you Kathy, I hope you enjoy your stay here.”

   “Thanks, Lisa!” Kathy said as Lisa went bounding off down the hall.

   Soon afterwards, Kathy left too, locking the door carefully, and went to

find Gyro and the cottage and go get her stuff to spend the night. An


   Kathy collected her sleeping bag, pillow, romance novel she was

almost finished reading, hair and tooth brushes and a few other personal

items, Mr. Clock Radio, her backpack, her cereal, 3P bowl, spoon, and

milk. She didn‟t know what to do about coffee in the morning, she‟d

worry about that then.

   She had a hard time getting to sleep. It was noisy and there were lots

of slamming doors. The heat had been turned on for the building but

wasn‟t individually adjustable and even with the window open, the room

was too stuffy. The bathroom was communal and down the hall. She

met a few girls going there and in the halls but most just greeted her like

they would a stranger on the street. The bed wasn‟t as comfortable as

her own and with no decoration or much stuff, the room was as dreary as

living in an empty cottage but without the nice grounds and privacy.

Kathy hated the whole experience.

   Groggy from lack of sleep, Thursday morning Kathy grabbed her stuff,

locked the door and did the walk to Gyro from the too stuffy dorm room

through a chilly morning, with no coffee. She stopped at the Student
Union but it was too early for their café. She hopped back in the car and

went to the first convenience store she came to off campus and got their

largest coffee.   What was she going to tell Dr. Rogers? She could afford

this option now but no way could she manage the food and extra

organization it would need, all for less privacy.

   Kathy drove back to the campus and dozed in her car until 9:00 and

then went to the business office and turned in the key and papers. It was

difficult to get the woman to understand she didn‟t want the dorm room

and to make sure she got a receipt for turning in the key and that Anita

wouldn‟t be held liable or connected with the room any further. Kathy

was worried about using up such good help; how could she ask Anita for

further help if she didn‟t take what was offered? But she was so tired she

just went back to the cottage and her own bed and slept for six hours


   When Kathy woke she was more depressed than she had been so far.

How did all this happen? She decided to call Jan.

   “Jan Hightower,” Kathy had caught her still at work.

   “Jan, it‟s Kathy. How are things going? You all moved in and


   “Kat! I was going to call you! Where are you?”

   “I‟m here at the cottage. Alex, one of his roommates, and Amy are

going to help me move on Saturday. I have most of the stuff I don‟t

need stored at the University, in my bin there. I still don‟t have a place,

but. . .” Kathy hoped Jan didn‟t pick up that she wasn‟t at work in the

middle of the day and should be. It would be humiliating to admit she

had lost her job too.

   “Oh, I‟m sorry to hear that. So what are you going to do, move home

with your parents for awhile?”

   “I don‟t know, I was hoping for something better. Spent last night on

campus in a dorm room Anita got me but it was horrible. That won‟t


   “Ugh. No, I couldn‟t stay in a place like that ever again. You said Alex

is helping you move? I‟m glad you‟re back together with him. Tom and I

are planning a Christmas party, you will have to come.” There was a bit

of a silence; the connection the two had had as roommates seemed a

long time ago.

   “Hey, Kathy, I have to go. I‟m really glad you called. I‟ll give you a

call on your cell in a couple weeks, let you know the details about the

party, okay?”

   “Sure. Bye, Jan. Glad I caught you. Take care.” Kathy was first to

disconnect this time.

   Kathy hadn‟t been to her parents‟ house since Easter. But they were

still away until next Tuesday, down at their vacation house in Florida.

She had a key, maybe she‟d go spend the night there. It was certainly

more comfortable than the empty cottage.

   Her parents‟ house was a three bedroom, two and a half bath, extra

wide townhouse with a basement and garage, in a large, new, multi-

purpose community about an hour up the Interstate from the Webster‟s

cottage. They had bought it when Kathy graduated high school. One of

the rooms was her room but she had only stayed in it summers and

vacations. It had never really felt like it belonged to her. She had some

things from her childhood home and high school still stored in the room‟s

closet but the curtains and bedding and décor were all her stepmother‟s


   It was nice to be able to park in the driveway. When she entered the

house, it felt a little cool but she could adjust the thermostat and did,

unlike with the stuffy dorm room last night. She wrote herself a note to

turn the thermostat back down when she left in the morning.

   She carried her overnight bag up the stairs to her room but when she

opened the door she was shocked to find the room full of plants and

flowers hanging from the ceiling. The bed was gone and there was a

ratty looking crafts table against the wall where the bed had been. There

was a small step ladder, she assumed for standing to hang the plants and

taking a longer look she realized the plants were not technically hanging

from the ceiling but there was a white plastic clothes drying rack hanging

from the ceiling light fixture and the plants were hanging from its slats.

There were a couple of painters buckets filled with white crumbly stuff too

and a few plant stems stood up in them. Kathy assumed it was a drying

agent of some sort. Most of the hanging plants still had color instead of

being all brown and dried as one would expect.

   She looked in the closet and her few things were still there but that‟s

all she recognized in this room. She closed the door again and opened

the guest room door. This was more like it; two twin beds, a dressing

table with mirror and dresser were in this room, it would do fine for the

night. She checked out the bathroom and found a clean towel for herself

in the hall closet. She had brought her dirty clothes with her to use her

mother‟s machines in the basement, another advantage over the empty

cottage and the dorm room.

   She had left the laundry bag on the main floor and opened the

refrigerator on her way to the basement. Not much she could use to

make dinner unless she wanted to thaw something from the freezer. She

decided to order a pizza and watch some movies on TV. As she went

through the house she had been turning on lights to make it feel more

lived in. It had furniture but the house still felt a bit cold and quiet

without any other people there.

   She continued through the kitchen with her laundry and turned on the

basement light and went on down the stairs. It was a true cellar

basement, most of it just gray cinderblock.     But it was a good height and

had adequate lighting and a couple of window well style full windows.

   However, being off the back of the kitchen, the door out into the

garage was there too, at the head of the basement stairs. It was a cold

area and there were often crickets and spiders in basement and garage

and occasionally one would get under or around the kitchen door and

into the house.
  The basement was tolerable though because her father had his

workbench there and all his tools. Kathy could remember as far back as

when she was three, her father having a workbench like this one in other

basements and the continuity was comforting to her. She put her laundry

into the washer and headed back up the stairs to the kitchen. She left

the basement light on for her return.

            his night went much better than the previous one and Kathy

            finally realized she had to move back home with her parents,

            at least through the rest of the month and until she can find

a job. She pulled her clipboard lists and journal from her trusty backpack

and makes a new sheet of what she‟ll need to do before her parents come

on on Tuesday.

  Suddenly she got a great idea; she‟ll go to the kennel and get Oliver,

her dog, and then things won‟t seem so lonely. Maybe her Dad will split

the money he will save by her caring for him the next four days, she

could really use that extra money.

  A big chunk of her remaining credit on the new card went to the vet.

Kathy was sure her Dad would pay her back and she hoped she could sell

him on paying her some extra. Oliver was just glad to be home.

  Her last paycheck from Anita was almost gone. Kathy made a careful

shopping list and went to the grocery store, she‟d have to feed her

movers tomorrow night and there wasn‟t enough kibble to keep Oliver

until her parents‟ return. She wanted some refrigerated stuff too for

herself. She was careful but in a hurry; she had to get back to the

cottage and finish the cleaning before Amy and Alex got there at Noon

tomorrow and make sure her things were ready to be moved for good.
   Amy showed up at Noon and Kathy told her about staying in the dorm

room Wednesday night and deciding she had to move back to her

parents‟. The two women started carrying boxes and furniture out to the

drive to make it quicker to load the truck when Alex got there. They

were half done when Alex and Paul drove up in the truck.

   “Hi,” Alex said, jumping down from the driver‟s seat and coming over

to Kathy.

   “How you doing. . .it‟s Amy isn‟t it?” Paul said to Amy.

   “Yes, hi, Paul. Kathy and I were just trying to get some of these

things out of the house so you guys could load them quickly.

   “Well, first, let me tell Kathy and you all the surprise I have for her,”

Alex said, turning so he was more or less facing all three of them.

   “I like surprises!” Kathy said, though she didn‟t always. She just

hoped Alex hadn‟t assumed something and made plans she didn‟t want to

go along with.

   “You all may not know, but I‟m the heir apparent of the parts

department at Fitzgerald Cars. In my role as boss-to-be, I have found

and cleaned out a small, inside storage area that I think would be perfect

for Kathy‟s stuff until she finds a job and place she wants to live. Miss

Kathy, would you care to come inspect this room and see if it would do or

do you have other plans for where your belongings will reside in the


   “Oh, Alex! That‟s the best news I‟ve had since this wretched month

began!” Kathy enthused. “Is it really ready now? Can we just take all

this stuff there?”

   “Yes, it‟s not a big room, not much bigger than the truck,” he laughed.

“But I think if we pack it well it will be fine. I even have a key for you,”

he handed her a single key on a keychain of an artistic gold “K”.

   Kathy kissed him on the cheek. “This is beautiful. Like you. Let‟s get

going, shall we? I have been staying at my parents and did do some

moving of stuff around in their basement last night but it‟s wonderful that

I don‟t need to move all my stuff there.”

   “Okay. You have everything you‟ll need at your parents for awhile?”

   “Yes, mother,” Kathy teased. “Look at those two,” she said in an aside

to Alex. Paul and Amy were having their own conversation, didn‟t appear

to be paying much attention to Kathy and Alex.

   “Hey, Paul, let‟s go!” Alex said, picking up one end of the dresser Amy

and Kathy had just brought out. Amy looked up, startled and then

followed Kathy back into the house to bring out more things.

   It took less than two hours to load the truck.   Amy and Kathy, each in

their own vehicles, followed Paul and Alex in the truck back to the

dealership and it took even less time to get it all neatly packed into the

little room Alex had cleaned out. When Kathy locked the door on her

stuff with the gold K key, everyone cheered. The truck belonged to the

dealership so Paul got in Amy‟s car and Alex rode to Kathy‟s parents‟

house in Gyro.

   En route, Alex got a call from Jamie and Amy shouted to Jamie for he

and Sharon to come to her parents house so she could congratulate them

on their engagement. Kathy was glad she had bought beer and

hamburger buns knew her mother had plenty of hamburger patties and

partially made hors d‟oeuvres in the freezer.

   It was only five o‟clock when they arrived at the townhome but no one

had had anything to eat since breakfast. Kathy got rid of the boys by

handing them burgers, buns, and cheese and telling them to go play with

her father‟s grill in the backyard. She and Amy, meanwhile, cooked

frozen cheese squares and deep fried chicken wings. It was Amy‟s turn
to get a call next, her friend Michelle. Kathy told her to invite Michelle

over too and Michelle asked could she bring her boyfriend Peter. “The

more the merrier,” was Kathy‟s response and she took out more burgers

for the boys to cook.

   By the time Jamie and Sharon arrived and then Michelle with Peter,

burgers were ready and there were enough other snacks to last them the

evening. They got a little loud and Kathy had to apologize to her parents‟

neighbors who came to see what was going on.

   Mrs. Callahan and her mother were good friends and the Callahans

watched the house while her parents were away, making sure there

weren‟t any stray newspapers or deliveries that sat and told of a house

where people were away on vacation.       Mr. Callahan seemed relieved to

see it was just Kathy and her friends having a small party and that

everyone seemed to know everyone else. He asked them to try and keep

it down but was pretty nice about it.

   All-in-all, the party was a great success. Amy, being youngest left first

around ten thirty and Michelle and Peter left soon after. Alex and Paul

left with Jamie and Sharon and dropped Sharon off at her place on the

way to their apartment. By the time Kathy had finished stacking plates

and doing a little cleaning up, it was after Midnight before she fell into

bed in the guest room. She had moved back into her parents‟ house.

             he next morning, Kathy confronted the party mess with a

             slight headache.   Thinking over the previous day‟s activities

             and the Callahan‟s visit, she decided she‟d better call her

parents and tell them she was here.

   “Hello?” Her stepmother answered the phone.

   “Mom? It‟s Kat. Guess where I am?” she teased.

   “In my house. I got a call last night from Audrey Callahan that you

were there and had a little party last night.”

   “Just Alex and Amy and a couple of their roommates and friends. I

borrowed a few burgers and your cheese squares and chicken wings. I‟m

getting ready to square the mess away now after I get the coffee on .”

   “Jan moved out of the cottage, she got a promotion and bought her

own place and Tom‟s moving in with her. I asked the Websters if I could

stay on but they thought Jan and I were moving out together and already

had plans for their daughter and granddaughter to move in over

Thanksgiving.” No way was she going to mention losing her job too.

   “Anyway, can I stay here until I get a new place? I‟d like to save a bit

of money up first too.”

   “Oh! I went and got Oliver out of the kennel Friday for you!”

   “Well, your father will like that. He doesn‟t like to pay all that out for

Oliver to stay at the doggie spa. I told him we should just bring him with

us when we drive down but he likes that idea even less.”

   “I‟m sorry to hear about Jan moving on and your losing the cottage.

That is a sweet place to live. You saw I turned your room into a craft

room? Sure, you can stay in the guest room as long as you like, your

father and I will enjoy having you. You might have to share over

Thanksgiving though; Aunt Martha is probably coming up for a couple


   Aunt Martha wasn‟t really Kathy‟s aunt but an old friend of her

stepmother‟s from before. When Kathy‟s stepsister got married, Kathy,

the flower girl, went to stay with Martha the night before the wedding so

her stepmother could concentrate on her daughter and daughter‟s

friends, the bridesmaids. Martha was still a little scary to Kat; her moods

could change suddenly; she‟d like you one day and do nothing but

criticize you the next.

   “Ah. I‟ll make sure I stay all neat and picked up in there then.     Do

you need me to change any linens or anything. I‟ve been here a couple

nights and did some of my laundry.” No need to tell her exactly how long

she‟d been there without calling to let them know she was there.

   “No, that‟s all right, dear. We‟ll be home around four or five Tuesday

afternoon; before dark, anyway. I‟ll tell your father your news. Thanks

for calling, even though it is a bit after the fact.”   Kathy had been waiting

patiently for the lecture to start and was surprised it was so late coming

and mild.

   “See you,” her mother said.

   “Goodbye,” Kathy said at the same time.

   It took Kathy until after Noon to finish cleaning up from the party.

She took Oliver for a walk and did some thinking; she would go to the

cottage, make sure it was all cleaned up well, then go to the Websters

and turn in the keys. She was a little worried about the extra key of

Jan‟s, didn‟t know if the Websters knew Jan had made it.

   Kathy took a garbage bag, a few cleaning supplies, and her mother‟s

broom and vacuum with her to the cottage. She opened all the closet

and cabinet doors. She wished she had thought to replace the kitchen
shelf linings, that would have been a cool thing to do for the Websters.

Kathy laughed when she saw she had forgotten her ratty rain coat, that it

was still in the hall closet along with some wire hangers. She stuffed all

of it into the black, plastic, trash bag. Maybe she would ask for another

lined raincoat for Christmas, maybe even two coats, one rain and one

winter. She smiled at the concept of owning two coats, not just one

mangy raincoat.

   Kathy didn‟t see any but the Websters cars when she drove up to the

mansion but she didn‟t know how the daughter was arriving either so

couldn‟t tell if she had arrived yet or not. There were no toys or bikes

around and Mrs. Webster, Roberta, had told her to come today and turn

in the keys.

   Which door to knock on? She decided the same door, the den or office

door that had been opened to her before. That was at least a bit familiar

to her. How much life had changed since last time she had been here!

Again, the door was opened by Mrs. Webster.

   “Kathy! Good to see you; come in, come in. Let me have your


   Kathy looked quickly at the computer monitor on the desk and was

relieved to see it wasn‟t on. Good, she hadn‟t interrupted anything. Mrs.

Webster took her jacket and put it on the back of a chair by the door to

the rest of the house. There were two or three wrapped packages on its

seat but Kathy didn‟t want to seem too curious so tried to keep her eyes

on her hostess.

   “Good afternoon, Mrs., Web. . . er, Roberta. I brought you both my

and Jan‟s keys to the cottage,” she explained unnecessarily.   Of course

she had brought the keys, that‟s why she was here!

   “Come into the kitchen, I‟d like my husband, Robert, to meet you.

Can I offer you tea, or coffee? I‟m a tea drinker but Robert prefers his

Sunday morning coffee. We‟re just finishing up reading The Times and a

leisurely bit of breakfast.”

   Roberta led the way to the light and airy kitchen. Kathy took in the

smell of bacon and syrup, a handsome middle age executive working on a

crossword puzzle at the kitchen table and the steam puffing busily from a

soon-to-be whistling tea kettle. But her eyes quickly sought out the

Monet and registered surprise when they didn‟t see it.

   Robert Webster looked up from his puzzle and started to rise from his


   “Oh, no, don‟t get up!” Kathy said to him, walking quickly over to him

and extending her hand , “I‟m Kathy, Kathy Hough,” she introduced

herself, “Pleased to meet you Mr. Webster.”

   Robert Webster continued to rise anyway and shook Kathy‟s hand,

standing. He was around six feet tall, she decided, he seemed about her

father‟s size and shape.

   “You‟ve come for the turning over of the keys, my wife says.” He

pulled the chair out next to Kathy and motioned for her to sit, sitting back

down himself.

   “Coffee or tea?” Roberta asked again.

   “I‟ll have more coffee, please,” her husband said, his back to her.

   “Tea please,” Kathy responded at the same time.

   “Oh, I beg your pardon,” Robert said, turning to his wife, “I thought

you were talking to me.”

   “I know what you want, dear,” her wife patted him on the shoulder

with one hand and reached over with a new, full, mug of coffee, and put

it in front of him with the other.

   She picked up his old mug and put it in the sink. Then she poured two

teas into lovely porcelain cups and brought them over to the table and

handed one by its saucer to Kathy before she walked to the other end of

the table and sat there with her own cup. “There‟s sugar, cream, and a

couple lemon slices there in the middle if you‟d like them, Kathy. Help

yourself,” she said with a smile.

   “Have you found a place to stay yet, Kathy?” Roberta asked after they

had all settled and had a sip of their drinks. “I told Robert what

happened with my assuming Jan was speaking for the two of you when

she came to say she was moving and how you might not have a place to

stay. He has connections in the real estate business and I thought he

may have some ideas of where you could find a place.”

   Kathy didn‟t know where to look she was so embarrassed at the

kindness of these people she hardly knew; what had she done to deserve

it? “Uh, that‟s okay,” she stammered, “I decided to move home with my

father and stepmother and look for something from there. They are

retired and live up in Rock Creek but are often away down at their
vacation house in Florida.” Shut up, Kat, she told herself, you‟re babbling


   “You‟re not by any chance Paul Hough‟s daughter, are you?” Mr.

Webster asked.

   “Uh, yes, my father‟s name is Paul?” Kathy replied.

   “Did your father go to Northern University, graduate around ‟74?

Member of the Phi Kappa‟s?” After Kathy‟s nodded assent to each

question he added, “I think he and I are fraternity brothers.”

   “Oh, what a coincidence,” was all Kathy could think of to say.

   “If he‟s my Paul Hough, you should ask him to contact Will Williams,

another fraternity brother of ours, he owns several nice apartment

buildings here in the metropolitan area.”

   Kat suddenly thought of the Green Lady and her plea for help a few

days earlier. “Uh, thanks,” she stammered again, “I‟ll be sure to ask him

if he knows you and Mr. Williams.”

   Mr. Webster glancing at his crossword puzzle reminded Kathy of what

she had come here to do.

   “Oh, here are the keys to the cottage.” She fished the envelope she

had them in out of her pants pocket and handed them to Mrs. Webster.

She was glad she had put them there rather than in her jacket which was

in the other room.

   Roberta finished her cup of tea the same time Kathy did. Kathy

suspected Mrs. Webster knew how uncomfortable she felt and finished at

the same time deliberately because now she slowly got up from her chair

and picked up her cup. Kathy did the same, walking with her over to the

sink like last time and putting her cup down on the counter.

   “Thank you so much for the tea, and the cottage, and everything,” she

said to Mrs. Webster. “And for the information about Mr. Williams too,”

she added, turning toward Mr. Webster.

   Mr. Williams smiled and nodded but went back to his crossword puzzle

and Mrs. Williams ushered her out of the room toward the office door.

“I‟d really like it if you would come back and visit when you find a place,”

Mrs. Williams was saying.

   When they reached the office she surprised Kathy by pulling one of the

packages out from the bottom of the pile and handing it to her, “As a

matter of fact, I have a little something I thought you would like. I

noticed you admiring it last time you were here.”

   Kathy stood speechless, staring down at the surprisingly heavy

package in her hands. Was it a book?

   “Don‟t just look at it, open it!” Mrs. Webster laughed.

   “Oh!” Kathy unwrapped it but finished with its back upwards. It was

framed, like a photograph. She turned it over and gasped, “The Monet! I

can‟t take this. . .”

   “Shh, dear, it‟s just a print. I saw you liked it when you were here last

week. I thought it was the least we could do for turning you out of your

home with so little notice. Do you know its name?”

   “Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lillies,” Kathy whispered. “It‟s my

absolute favorite painting in the whole world.”

   “I thought it was appropriate for your new place and for now too, to

remind you your current situation is only a bridge away from the next,

better one, I hope.”

   This time Kat didn‟t just think of the Green Lady, she said a silent,

joyous thank you and knew everything would be okay from here on out.

  “I can‟t tell you how much this means to me,” she said, giving Roberta

a little hug that surprised them both. “You have both been so kind to me,

I wish there was some way to repay you.”

  Roberta became a little more brusque and formal seeming as she

pulled away from Kathy and handed her her coat from the back of the

chair. “Don‟t be silly, we are glad to do whatever we can for you Kathy,

you‟re a fine young woman. I meant it, when I said I‟d like you to come

back to visit. I want to hear all about your new place when you get it and

where you decide to hang the picture.”

  Kathy put on her jacket and then couldn‟t figure out how to get out the

door fast enough. “I will. I‟ll let you know what happens,” she said

opening the door with more force than she meant to.

  She semi-stumbled onto the stoop and started closing the door behind

her. Roberta stayed halfway across the room and just gave a little wave.

“Bye, now,” Kathy said resolutely and continued closing the door.

  She ran down the steps but before she got into Gyro she looked

toward where the cottage was nestled in its grove of trees. “Bye,

cottage. I won‟t forget you. I‟ll come back and visit you one day too,”

she promised.

              athy felt lighter, and truly felt things were going to improve

              in the coming week or two. It was a longer drive to Edita‟s

              from her parents but she strode purposely into the lovely

office and sat on the couch closer to Edita than usual.

   “What a week,” she began. “Monday night I met Alex for dinner and

we made up.”

   Edita smiled and nodded for her to continue.

   “We had a really nice dinner and he and a bunch of people helped me

move Saturday. I moved back to my parents house. I had dinner with

my friend, Amy? Tuesday. She helped me move too. Everybody kept

telling me to move back with my parents for awhile.”

   “So you listened to your friends?” Edita asked with a smile that Kathy

was sure was teasing her because she didn‟t listen to anyone very well.

   “Well, no, not really,” Kathy grinned. “I went to see Dr. Rogers on

Wednesday like she asked me to and she had gotten me a dorm room I

could have used through the semester but it was too hard with food and

all and I didn‟t like it but there was a nice grad student, Lisa, she was one

of the dorm monitors, it was one of the high rises, another thing I didn‟t

like. But, anyway, I turned the key back in and the next night I went to

my parents‟ they‟re still away in Florida though.”

   “And what was that like?”

   “My mother turned my room into a craft room; there‟s flowers and

stuff drying all over and no furniture. I had to sleep in the guest room.”

   “It sounds like your mother wasn‟t expecting you to move home

again.” Edita often pointed out the obvious but lots of things that

seemed obvious to others didn‟t to Kathy and things Kathy thought were

obvious didn‟t seem so to others.

   “Didn‟t want me to move home. But I got Oliver, my dog, out of the

kennel and that will save them some money. I‟m hoping my father will

split it with me.”

   “If you do something nice for them, they won‟t mind your moving


   “I guess,” Kathy said, looking thoughtful.

   “Kathy, your mother didn‟t know you were coming did she? Do you

think she turned your bedroom into a craft room for spite?”

   “Well, she could have asked me!”

   “It‟s her home! Did you ask her how she wanted your room at the

cottage set up?”

   Kathy couldn‟t look at Edita. “That‟s different,” she said a bit sullenly.

   They sat for a long time, neither saying anything before Edita urged

her to continue her story. “So, you stayed at your parents house for a

night and got Oliver from the kennel and then what?”

   “Oh! Alex surprised me. He cleaned out a little room at his dad‟s

dealership so I could store all my stuff until I get my own place. I was

worrying about that; I went to a storage place and I couldn‟t afford it and

they wanted a six month lease and my parent‟s basement isn‟t that big, I

was going to move the stuff there but I hadn‟t even told my parents I

was moving home yet.” Kathy heard what she had just said and looked at

Edita, ashamed.

   “I didn‟t call them to tell them I was there until Sunday morning,” she

said in a small voice.

   Edita just looked at her, thoughtfully.

   “I guess I should have called and asked. My stepmother said as much

when I called. We had a little party Saturday night, all the people who

helped move and some other friends; Alex and Amy and his roommate

Paul helped me move and and Alex and Paul‟s other roommate Jamie and

his fiancée Sharon and Amy‟s friend Michelle and her boyfriend Peter

came over later. My parents neighbors, the Callahans came over because

we were making a little too much noise and Mrs. Callahan called my

stepmother. The Callahan‟s watch the house when they‟re away. So,

anyway, I knew I had to call my mother but I was too late.”

   “Did you and your stepmother get into an argument?”

   “Surprisingly, no. She just kind of referred to my having called „after

the fact‟ at the end and actually said she looked forward to seeing me and

was sorry I had had to move out of the cottage and that Jan had moved


   “Did you tell her you had lost your job, too?”

   “No way! I hope she doesn‟t find that out until I have another. She

didn‟t want me to take that job, got all angry when I left Kettler Pharm

and went on and on about not leaving a perfectly good job.”

   “Sounds like your stepmother just wants what is best for you,” Edita

commented, mildly.

   “But she doesn‟t get to decide that! I‟m already risking my life taking

a history course again this semester after she found out last time.

Remember that?”

   “Your parents do still pay for your education and there‟s nothing wrong

with having a business education. I was a teacher before I started

studying to become a therapist. “ Edita let Kathy think about that for a


   “Maybe you can find a job where you can afford graduate school in

history and then you can do what you like. Your stepmother isn‟t out to

get you, Kathy. You two just have different tastes like with her turning

the bedroom in her house into a craft room versus how you decorated at

the cottage.”

   “I didn‟t decorate the cottage, it was all Jan‟s.”   The sullenness in

Kat‟s voice was back.

   “That attitude won‟t get you very far,” Edita said with a bit of asperity.

   Kathy laughed. “I‟m sorry. Oh!” she suddenly remembered her

Sunday. “Yesterday I went to turn in the keys to the cottage to the

Websters and Mrs. Webster gave me her Monet, the “Bridge over a Pond

of Water Lillies” which is my favorite painting of anyone. Her husband

thinks he knows my dad too and they might have a fraternity brother who

owns apartment buildings and my dad could ask his friend to help me get

one maybe.”

   “How nice.”

   “I went to the post office near the university and got a post office box

instead of changing my address to my parents. Actually everybody is

being really nice to me and trying to help.” Kathy noticed Edita look at

the clock. “I‟ll let you know next week if my parents are helpful too,” she

said handing her therapist the weekly check.

   “We still have five minutes,” Edita said, surprised but she took the

check Kathy noticed. That was another thing she had been trying to

teach Kathy; when someone gave you something, no matter what it was,

take it. You could do whatever you wanted with it after they left. It

proved helpful, when Kathy could remember, whenever her stepmother

tried to push food and other things on her when Kathy was leaving her

parents to drive back to the cottage.
   “That‟s okay,” Kathy said, standing awkwardly, “It‟s a longer drive to

my parents and they come home tomorrow. I want to make sure

everything is as nice as I can make it so my stepmother won‟t have

anything to complain about.”

   Edita stood also and walked out to the waiting room with Kathy saying

only, “See you next week.”

   Kathy did hurry home. She had an idea what would please her

stepmother and worked until nearly Midnight to get it set up. She

cleaned and vacuumed the whole house, even remembered to go out and

check the grill which she had forgotten after the party.

   She cleaned up the back yard and Tuesday morning even got out her

father‟s electric lawn mower and mowed the front and back lawns one

last time. She cleaned the mower too and, when it was almost time for

her parents to come home, she made cookies so the house would smell

nice when they walked in. Everything was ready for their return.

              athy went outside to greet her parents and help carry their

              luggage and other things into the house.

                 “Oh, Kat, the house looks and smells great,” her

stepmother enthused when she got inside.

   Kathy had bought a few pots of chrysanthemums and had them on the

porch, either side of the front door, and a few more one could see out the

sliding glass back door. She had brought a colorful lap quilt, the first

thing she and Pat had made together, down from among her own stuff in

the guest room and draped it against her stepmother‟s white, silk,

loveseat. The browns in the quilt pulled out the rosy tones of the antique

woods in the room‟s chairs.

   In addition to the smell of fresh baking, the smell of roasting pork with

apples was beginning to seep out of the kitchen also. Her mother put

what she was carrying at the base of the stairs and continued into the

kitchen. “I smell you are cooking, but I‟m surprised the kitchen is so

neat,” she commented. Helene Hough‟s cooking intimidated Elyse, it was

so good, and she always kept her house spotless. It was like a general

reviewing her troops and, so far, the inspection Kathy‟s was going

through was going really well.

   “I have everything taken care of,” she told her stepmother, proudly.

“Just think of me as your personal maid for the next couple days. You

need anything, you can call on me and I‟ll fetch it.”

   At the word “fetch” Oliver came running from where he‟d been

sleeping up on the other guest bed. Kathy made a note to herself to

remember to wash the bedspread before Thursday when Martha was

supposed to come and to see if she couldn‟t get Oliver to sleep

somewhere else.

   “Hey there, Boy!” her father greeted the dog. “Don‟t you look nice.”

Kathy had given the dog a bath and put a little, lightweight sweater on

him to hopefully keep down some of his shedding. He did look nice, she


   Her father started carrying their things upstairs and her stepmother

peered into the refrigerator. On the top shelf was the plate of vegetables

and dip Kathy had prepared. On the small counter next to the

refrigerator that her parents used as a bar, Kathy had all the items out

ready for their favorite drinks. She‟d even filled the ice bucket recently.

There was a plate with a homemade cheese ball softening in the center

and a box of open crackers beside it. Her parents had arrived before

she‟d had a chance to finish making the cheese plate.
   Now her mother started efficiently picking up where Kathy had left off,

artistically placing crackers around the ball of cheese. “Are we having

guests?” she asked. “This all seems like an awful lot for just the three of


   Kathy could have kicked herself; she‟d overdone it. “No, just us,” she

said, trying to make her voice sound carefree and cheerful. “I did make

quite a bit I guess, but I thought with the holiday coming and Martha and

John, Elyse and the kids and I don‟t know who else you may have invited,

leftovers might be a good idea.”

   “it‟s fine, dear,” her mother said, walking by her carrying the plate

toward the family room and stopping next to her a moment to

uncharacteristically pat her on the shoulder. “Thank you for making our

homecoming so much more comfortable.”

   Kathy was glad her mother moved on to the family room and had her

back to her so she couldn‟t see her look of shock at having been thanked.

But she almost laughed when her mother added, over her shoulder, “Isn‟t

it a bit warm in here? Would you turn down the thermostat a few

degrees, Kat.” Of course her stepmother had to complain about

something. Why not that it was warmth making things so comfortable?

   Kat‟s father came down the steps as she was adjusting the thermostat

and gave her a wink. Her stepmother was famous for the line, “You can

put on more clothes if you‟re too cold but I can only take off so many.”

   Kat‟s father made everyone a drink and her mother checked on the

pork roast and potatoes, and brought the vegetable tray to the family

room. Kat remembered Edita‟s lecture about it being her mother‟s home

and let her pick up making the dinner where she‟d left off.

   She sat in the family room and chatted, mostly with her father, telling

them about her visit to John and Elyse‟s and her and Jan going their own

ways and even a bit, very vaguely told, about trying out the dorm room

and looking for other apartments. She didn‟t mention losing her job

though or mention the Websters and their gift.

   She hoped she could get her father off alone and question him about

being a fraternity brother of Robert Webster and whether he knew Will

Williams. She‟d wait until after Thanksgiving for that.

   Most of Wednesday, Kathy made herself available to her mother and

had to go to the grocery store three times despite her mother calling her

on her cell phone twice in-between to add things to lists. She ironed

linen for the Thanksgiving table and dried the silver her stepmother


   Kathy loved polishing silver and her mom treated her to stories of her

own young life. When she‟d first been married, she hadn‟t known how to

cook or clean or anything. Her parents had been well off and had had

servants. She had even tried to heat water for Kat‟s father‟s coffee in a

pewter mug and that had made a horrible mess.

   Finally, that evening, after a mundane meal of meatloaf, Kathy

brought her laptop down to the family room and her mother worked on

some sewing while her father read and she started on her week‟s

accounting worksheet. Even with the holiday in there and the time off

school, because school was online, they had work due the next Monday.

There‟d be another sheet on Saturday but the professor was just

overlapping them, not giving them a break.

   It was quiet again. Kathy had been explaining to her mother about

how the worksheets were assigned and decided to look and see if the

grade on her history paper was posted yet.

   “Oh, yes!” she cried. “Thank you Mr. Cooper and the indians and

diplomats you rode in on!”

  “What?” her mother said startled.

  “I got an „A‟ on my history paper,” she enthused without thinking, face

lit and eyes shining at her stepmother.

  Slowly the shine faded and was replaced with a wary sullenness. The

room got so quiet that her father looked up from his reading and then

looked back and forth at the two with concern.

  “What happened?” her father asked. “What‟s wrong?”

  “Your daughter got an „A‟ on her history paper,” her stepmother said,

speaking slowly and enunciating every word like a speech teacher to the

deaf or hard of hearing.

  “That‟s great, Kat,” her father congratulated her warmly, “What was

the paper on?” He looked at his wife again and stopped.

  “Paul, Kat isn‟t taking history anymore, she‟s taking business,


  “Well, I‟m sure she has to take some other kinds of courses to get her

degree,” he temporized, “I‟m sure she‟ll explain.” That had been one of

the sore spots between her stepmother and father when Kat was growing

up; her father had always thought the best of her, had made excuses and

tried to smooth things other between the two in her favor.

   “No, it wasn‟t required. It‟s just a course I wanted, for me,” she said,

almost crying. She snapped the lid of her computer closed and

unplugged it from the wall and stood with the mess of the cords,

computer, papers, her clipboard and pen all awkwardly held in her arms.

“The paper was on James Fenimore Cooper,” she smiled at her father,

“and the importance of his life and works to the cultural stability of this

country. Without him, there might not have been any business,” she said

defiantly, almost lecturing her stepmother. Kathy then turned and left

the room.

   “Kat,” her stepmother called. But Kathy didn‟t turn around but kept

walking to the stairs.

   “Kathy, come back here!” her stepmother demanded. But Kathy was

crying as she climbed the steps and decided she didn‟t care, she was not

turning around and going back down there no matter what.

   When she reached the guest room, she dumped the pile of things in

her arm on the spare bed, shut the door so she wouldn‟t be disturbed,

and threw herself on the other and curled up in a ball, crying.    She heard

her parents talking, her stepmother sounding shrill and her father,

rumbling, soothing. They were climbing the stairs, coming after her.

   Her stepmother was the one to open the door, come into the room to

ask, “Kathy, why didn‟t you come when I called?” She sounded so

reasonable, almost hurt.

   “There wasn‟t any point,” Kat cried. “You don‟t listen! It‟s my life and

I‟m not a child anymore. I love history, want to study history, I don‟t

care if it‟s practical or if I can get a job with it or whatever,” she finished.

She could feel the snot running from her nose and her eyes swollen.         She

wiped her sweatshirted arm across her face.

   Her mother came and sat next to her on the bed. “I had no idea you

felt that way,” she said quietly, concerned. “You just always seemed to

be floundering and defiant. I only want what‟s best for you, Kat, you

know that!” Her stepmother had tears in her eyes. “Let‟s talk about this

after Thanksgiving, see if we can‟t come to some agreement. I‟m very

sorry I upset you.” Her stepmother stood and took her father‟s hand and

they left, closing the door behind them. Kathy half cried herself to sleep,

half wondered at her stepmother‟s conciliatory words.

             hanksgiving morning Kathy felt great but a little anxious as

             she came downstairs. Her mother had been up working on

             Thanksgiving preparations for an hour or two at least. They

wished one another good morning and, besides a look, made no

indication that anything untoward had happened the previous night.

   “What time is Martha coming,” Kathy asked.

   “Sometime this morning she said,” her mother answered, taking eggs

out of the refrigerator.

   “And what time are John and Elyse coming and what time‟s all the

over-eating take place,” Kathy said, trying to make her twenty questions

come out a little funny and light rather than so dense and annoying.

   Kathy wished there were more people coming. Often some of Helene‟s

family came, one of her brothers and his children. When Helene‟s

parents had been alive, all the parties had been at their house and Kathy

had seen a lot of her stepcousins, mostly girls. She missed the large

family parties.

   “I told everyone we were eating at four,” her mother told her. “Would

you like me to make you some scrambled eggs?” she asked.

   “Oh! Sure, I‟d love them,” Kathy responded, getting a couple of slices

of bread out of their bag and setting them in the toaster. “Is there

anything you need me to do?” she volunteered.

   “No, not much left after all you did yesterday. Your father will get the

table organized.” They looked at one another and smiled. Kat‟s father

loved large buffet dinners.

   Every year, Paul Hough wrote out the names of dishes on little scraps

of paper and put them various places on the table like it was a battle

scene and he was an army general. He‟d then put empty containers on

top of the scraps of paper to represent the full dishes and make sure

nothing jostled and that there were enough serving pieces to go with

each dish. Despite his care, he‟d usually forget the pickles or gravy ladle

or some small item rarely seen at other times. For the most part, Kat‟s

mother tried to follow his plan but sometimes he had the wrong empty

dish and the real thing was larger or smaller than its space or needed a

hot pad under it where he didn‟t have one.

   “Oh, we got a call this morning from Mike and Barbara asking could

they come for dinner. Apparently something happened and they‟re not

going to Barbara‟s sister‟s this year. I don‟t know if that means they

won‟t be around for Christmas instead or what. But of course I told them

we‟d love to have them come.”

   “Oh? That‟s good,” Kat responded, buttering toast. She took her

breakfast to the table in the family room where she would still be in sight

and hearing of her mother.

   “So, Ew don nee me to dew annieting his morrin?” Kat asked, mouth

full of hot scrambled egg.

   Her mother just gave her a look.

   “I‟m sorry,” Kat apologized. “There‟s nothing you need me to help

with this morning?” she tried again.

   “No, I think I have everything under control here,” her mother

responded, more coolly this time, “You can go ahead and get dressed and

greet guests, help Martha when she gets here, keep the children occupied

this afternoon, that sort of thing.” Her mother dismissed her.

   Everyone arrived in a party mood. Kathy had showered and put on

her new outfit and Aunt Martha had arrived shortly thereafter and

immediately complimented her. Her mother had noticed and given her

an approving nod after she had hugged Martha but she hadn‟t said


   Martha and Helene had been friends in Europe when their previous

husbands had been in the military together. Martha had been separated

from her husband when he was killed and didn‟t have very much family

so had sort of adopted Kathy‟s family as her own.

   After everyone else arrived and the party was well started, Helene had

her husband call Paris and everyone wished Ellen a Happy Thanksgiving,

even though there was no turkey news from their end, Ellen and her

husband Sam were just sitting down to their own dinner.

   The adults were all seated, had their plates balanced on their laps in

the living room when the phone rang and it was Kat‟s other brother Chas,

calling from the West Coast. Chas had an MBA and taught business

courses at the California Maritime Academy.

   Once again everyone settled in to eat. John was taking his turn

watching the children in the family room so the rest of the adults could

eat and converse in the living room.

   “How is the job hunt coming, Kathy?” Elyse asked, innocently.

Everyone stopped eating and stared at Kat.
   “You‟re looking for a new job?” Martha asked, interested. “I thought

you really liked working at the bookstore and gave up a good job at the

pharmaceutical firm to take it.”

   Kathy had a mouthful of dry, white meat turkey and was having

trouble swallowing. Everyone resumed eating but still glanced at Kat

expectantly. Kat couldn‟t look at her mother. When she looked anxiously

at her father, he winked at her. What was she going to say? She‟d have

to make it direct and simple, very matter-of-fact like it was no biggie.

   “I have a few leads and some ideas in the works,” she said, quickly

putting more food in her mouth to give her more time to finish.

   “You quit your job again?” her mother finally asked. Kathy heard

incredulousness in her tone of voice.

   Kathy thought back to when she had left Kettler Pharmaceuticals. She

had been working nights in a large law firm‟s data center and making

good money by the hour. She‟d thought she could get a couple more

clients like that and structure her hours more to her liking, sort of have

her own clerical business.

   It hadn‟t quite worked out the way she had wanted. She still had the

law firm and got a little more work from them, mostly temp work for
when their secretaries were on vacation and she‟d gotten a couple more

contracts but for either too few hours or less than minimum wage.

   The too few hours turned out to be her fault; she hated going to work

in the afternoons when everyone was getting off work and she goofed

around too much when she was working by herself in the evenings so it

took her too long to finish jobs. That didn‟t matter to the customer,

because she finished when they expected, the problem was she only

billed for how long she was supposed to take. If she was supposed to get

X amount of work done in two to four hours one evening it might take her

five or six before she would get done.

   She really shouldn‟t have taken the job for five dollars an hour in an

executive woman‟s home. That lady was crazy and didn‟t even have a

computer for her to work on, she had to use a typewriter on the dining

room table and do mundane tasks like typing up Christmas card


   That year when she was on her own was really bad. Her income went

down by a third and she was late paying Edita who started saying she

had to catch up or stop coming for awhile. When Anita had offered her

the job at the bookstore she had taken it as much from interest as to get

a steady job, any steady job again. She just told her parents she‟d taken

it because it was what she had been looking for.

   “The owner, the professor I had for one of my business classes? She

decided to move the business back to her home and operate on the

Internet instead of paying rent in the Mall,” Kathy explained, looking

toward her mother as if she had nothing to hide.

   At least that was sort of true and throwing in that Dr. Rogers was her

professor in the business school couldn‟t hurt. No need to add that she

had been laid off and that Anita had made the decision to move the store

back to her home because it wasn‟t doing well. Let her mother think Kat

had plans of her own rather than that she was not only homeless but had

no job either and didn‟t know what she was going to do about either.

   “She‟s got some ideas about jobs for me too,” Kathy added,

brightening. The “too” was what made her feel better. She hoped it

implied that it was in addition to the “leads and some other ideas” of her

own she‟d made up earlier. “I expect to be pretty busy this next week

evaluating everything.”

   Kathy looked around the room, as if daring anyone to add anything or

ask another question about her work situation and then stood with her

nearly empty plate and said, “Anyone want anything from the table? I

think I‟ll go spell John for awhile with the kids,” she smiled at Elyse to let

her know everything was all right, “so he can come in here with the

grownups.” She wanted to get out of that room; she knew she was

pushing her luck and her stepmother would probably have something to

say to her later.

   But the rest of the day went fine and late that evening her mother and

Martha made a platter of turkey sandwiches and brought them to the

family room where Kathy and her father were catching up on reruns of

the day‟s parades and sporting events. With four of them, they even

played some bridge and Kat and her stepmother were partners and beat

Martha and her father.

   Even with a such a nice evening though, when Martha said she was

going to go to bed, Kathy went too, rather than be stuck with just her

parents and no referee if things got ugly again about the history course,

the job situation, or anything else. At least there wasn‟t much else Kathy

could think of that had gone wrong with her life since she‟d last seen her

parents at John and Elyse‟s to celebrate her and Mike‟s birthdays and

Caroline and Michael‟s Halloween costumes, the end of October. She‟d

just lost her housing and job. No big deal. There had to be new ones

around the corner for her, didn‟t there?

   Friday was quiet with only the four of them in the house. Kathy

missed the busyness of getting ready for a holiday party. Before you

knew it, it would be Christmas. She wondered where she‟d be in her life


   Martha and her stepmother were working together downstairs so Kat

set up her computer on the floor of her father‟s office and sat working on

the rest of her accounting worksheet while her father puttered with his


   Kat liked working with her father but felt a little shy around him. She

had been so involved with her stepmother through the years that she and

her father had seemed to drift apart. Sometimes now though, when they

were alone like this, Kat would ask him indirect questions about her

mother or where they had lived. She had had a particularly vivid dream

last Spring and thought it showed her the place they had lived, perhaps

when she had been born. She described it to her father but he didn‟t

recognize it as anywhere they‟d been. They had a Christmas ornament

that her parents had had since they were married and the box it lived in

had the address of where they were each Christmas inscribed on it,
usually in her father‟s hand. Some writing from before she was born she

didn‟t recognize and thought that much be her mother‟s writing. Her

stepmother had written addresses on the box a couple times too, why not

her mother?

   Today though it was her father who spoke up. “Thank you, Kat, for

picking up Oliver the other day. I think you saved us a couple hundred

dollars.” He was grinning as he leaned sideways in his chair trying to

hand a slip of paper around to her, sitting on the floor, a little ahead of

his desk. “Here‟s a check to cover what you paid plus a little something

more to share the wealth.”

   The check was for fifteen hundred dollars, way more than Kat had had

to pay the kennel a week ago. “Thank you!” she said, jumping up to hug

him and give him a kiss on the cheek. “I can really use this. Maybe my

next place I can keep Oliver and I won‟t charge you nearly as much for

boarding,” she teased her father.

   “Ha, ha,” he replied, dryly. “Take my dog, please,” he joked in return.

   “Hey, Dad? Do you know a Robert Webster? He was my landlord at

the cottage and said he thought you two were fraternity brothers at

college?” Kathy, reminded of having to find a “next place,” was reminded

of the conversation with the Websters when she‟d turned in her key on


   “Bob Webster?    Isn‟t he an historic preservationist architect? I

haven‟t seen him in ages! If he‟s the same Bob Webster, yes, he‟s one of

my frat brothers from Northern University.”

   “It sounds like the same person, “ Kathy answered. “I don‟t know

about the architect part though. Do you have another frat brother, Will

Williams? Mr. Webster said to ask you about him, said he owns lots of

apartment buildings or something in the area and maybe you could ask

him to help me find a good place to live?”

   “Will Williams! Yes, he and I are good friends and lunch together

often. That‟s a great idea to ask Will to see if he has anything for you to

rent. Let me know when you get your job situation squared away and if

you still want and need some help with finding an apartment, I‟d be glad

to introduce you to Will.”

   Kathy loved the way her father always left matters in her own hands

and didn‟t just do things for her, like Alex did, or assume certain things

should be done at all, like her stepmother did.

   “Thanks, Dad, you‟re the best,” Kathy hugged and kissed him again

before sitting back down at her computer and finishing her accounting,

both her class worksheet and her personal bank balance worksheet.

Although she didn‟t like going out on Black Friday, Kathy wanted to get

her father‟s check in her account so the money would be available sooner

and figured the money machine at the bank just couldn‟t be that

crowded, could it?

   It could. The closest ATM for her bank was in a shopping center

across from the mall for her parents‟ new community and that little

shopping center looked just as busy as the mall looked to be if you

factored in the size difference. She had to wait in line to use the ATM and

was parked at the other end of the shopping center from the bank. It

took her nearly an hour to deposit her check only a mile from her parents‟


   When she got back to her parents house she called Amy and they

made a date for Sunday to go out and do a little early Christmas

shopping, or at least looking They decided Sunday might be a little less

crowded than Saturday. Kathy wanted to look for some little gift to take

Dr. Rogers when she visited her Monday, to thank her for getting the

dorm room for her even though she didn‟t take it.

  Saturday, Kathy took her computer to the local library. Her

stepmother still hadn‟t said anything more about losing her job or the

great business versus history course debate. Kat wanted to stay out of

the house as much as she could over the weekend. She was glad Martha

was staying until Monday morning, she would keep her mother

entertained and hopefully Kathy‟s problems wouldn‟t take center stage

until next week and maybe by then she‟d have more information.

  Kathy had been doing a lot of thinking since Jan and her fight about

grapes and microwave cooking which seemed like months ago now

instead of only a couple weeks.   She thought that maybe she‟d like her

own apartment and maybe she‟d look for another administrative job, one

that paid better and was in the financial department. She‟d look for a job

with a big company that helped pay for tuition. She would have them

pay for the rest of her business courses and she‟d buckle down and get

her degree in business so she could be promoted and make even more

money. With more money she‟d go on and get a graduate degree in

history, pay for it herself. She had almost as many history courses as

she did business, while she was at the university tomorrow talking to Dr.

Rogers, she‟d find the graduate history office and get some information

on how to apply.

   While she was at the library, Kathy worked on a timeline to make her

dream come true. She thought she could graduate with her degree in

business, concentration in accounting, by next May. She couldn‟t do

anything about school for this semester except make sure she did as well

as she could in both the accounting and the history. The next semester

didn‟t start until the second week in January so she figured she had until

roughly Christmas to find the right job. She would apply for the Fall

semester in graduate school and could take a history course or two

during the summer if she didn‟t have the right mix for what they wanted

right now. She‟d make it work, she had to! Please Green Lady, please,

she begged. You gave me the Websters, and Roberta‟s Monet bridge

painting, please, can this be what‟s on the other side?

   With the infusion of money from the check her father had given her

and her excitement about finally having a plan she thought would work,

Kathy light heartedly decided she‟d had enough turkey to last her until

Christmas and stopped for a large pizza to take home to the old folks.

   “Is that pizza I smell?” her father asked, coming downstairs as Kathy

came in.

   “Pizza!” Her mother and Martha said together. “You have got to be

kidding,” her stepmother said, pretending insult. Her rueful smile gave
her away though and Kathy could tell everyone else was just as tired of

turkey as she was.

   “Well,” Martha demanded, “Don‟t just stand there holding it. What

kind is it, anyway?”

   “A little bit of everything,” Kathy replied as she waltzed her way to the

counter and grabbed four small plates from the cabinet above. Her

mother was busy grabbing silverware and napkins and her father was

pouring drinks. “We have one-quarter pepperoni; one-quarter vegetable,

that-is-to-say green pepper, onion, and mushroom; one-quarter plain

cheese; and, last but not least, one quarter ham and pineapple, for you

Hawaiians out there.”

   They had a wonderful evening, ate all the pizza and this time, Kathy

and her father beat her stepmother and Martha in bridge.

   The next day, when Kat was leaving to go pick up Amy, Helene asked

her quite nicely if she wouldn‟t mind stopping at the grocery store on her

way home and would she like to ask Amy if she could come to dinner

when they finished their shopping trip. When Kathy said she‟d be

delighted to do the shopping and that she‟d invite Amy, her stepmother

gave her a small list and a hundred dollars, telling her to buy a snack at

the Mall for she and Amy too if she liked.

   At the Mall, Kat and Amy split up because Amy wanted to do some real

Christmas shopping in the larger department stores whereas Kathy was

more interested in just finding a little token gift for Anita and maybe

Christmas cards. They agreed to meet in the mall‟s eatery.

   Kathy was in the Hallmark Store looking at Christmas cards. Her

stepmother insisted their cards always had to say “Merry Christmas,” not

“Happy Holidays” or anything of the other generic greetings and even

though Kathy bought her own cards now, she was still influenced by the

fifteen years she‟d lived with her parents.

   “Oh!” Kat exclaimed, softly. She was wandering the rest of the aisles

and all the way in the back, with the stationery, was a box of note cards,

the top one of which was the Monet bridge print Roberta Webster had just

given her.   Kat remembered Anita‟s colorful impressionist painting in her

office and thought this might be the perfect little give to give her for

helping with the dorm room and apologizing for not taking it after Dr.

Rogers had gone to all that trouble for her. They were on sale too, so

Kathy bought them and some tasteful non-holiday wrapping paper, and

found and found a box of new apartment notice cards she liked as well as
a small box of Christmas cards, just enough for family and a couple

friends this year.

   Kathy looked at a few other stores, tried to get ideas for a couple of

things to get her parents and to request for her parents to get her for

Christmas; it was hard to think of normal things to want as gifts when

you needed both job and a place to live that was your own. But she

remembered a couple books she hadn‟t been able to buy from Anita yet

she could ask her parents for and saw an all weather coat with a zip out

lining she could mention, to replace the one she‟d thrown out at the

cottage. She could only mention it as her stepmother‟s ideas of what

Kathy should wear and what Kathy actually wanted didn‟t always match.

   She looked at the clock on her cell phone, Kathy didn‟t wear a watch,

and decided to go to the food court and get her lunch and wait for Amy


   Following a leisurely stop for a snack, Kathy tagged along with Amy to

one other store she wanted to look at and then they trooped out to find

Gyro. His back still full of stuff from the cottage Kathy was storing there,

fitting all of Amy‟s purchases in proved to be a fun puzzle for the girls.

They were laughing and in good humor as they set off for the grocery

store trip and then back to Kat‟s parents house for dinner. It was another
fine day.   With the exception of a couple of Kathy‟s secrets being

revealed in awkward situations, moving home for a few weeks with her

parents wasn‟t turning out to be as hard as she thought it would be.

                onday morning Kat set out for the University. She had

                wrapped her little gift for Anita, knew Dr. Roger‟s school

                office hours were ten thirty to Noon on Mondays. When

she arrived, the door was closed and she could see through the little glass

panel in the door that there was someone else in the office with the


   Kathy sat in the hallway and took out her new list of things to do to

make her new plan about work, housing, finishing her business degree

and then going on to graduate school in history come together. Dr.

Rogers was first on her list of people to see.

   She was hoping Dr. Rogers could advise her on some local companies

that helped pay tuition and that would be impressed by Dr. Roger‟s

recommendation of Kathy that she‟d been given when she was laid off

from the store. Or, maybe there were business scholarships out there

that the professor would know about but Kathy wasn‟t sure about that

line of thinking since she was pretty much in her last semester of school.

She kind of wanted to quiz the professor on her personal life, if she

dared, and find out what route she took to be a professor.

   Kathy stood when she heard voices near the door and the door

opening and made sure she was not in the way but could be seen so Dr.

Rogers would know she was waiting for her.

   “Thank you, Dr. Rogers. Bye.” The other person, obviously another

student, left quickly taking Kathy‟s presence for granted.

   “Kathy, come in,” Dr. Rogers seemed pleased to see her. Kathy hoped

it was because she didn‟t mind about the dorm room rather than that she

just hadn‟t heard that Kathy had turned in the key. She decided to

address that first and get it out of the way.

   “Hi,” Kathy said, sitting down across the desk from Anita. She noticed

the impressionist painting and smiled as she sat. She then pulled the

wrapped present out of her backpack and put it on the professor‟s desk.

   “I‟m sorry I couldn‟t take the dorm room you got me. It didn‟t seem

like it was going to work. I decided to move home with my parents for a

bit. I‟m really, really sorry though that you went to all that trouble and I

didn‟t take it and I bought you this little gift as thanks for doing that and

for having been such a good boss at Boundless and all,” she finished,

lamely, but with a grin.

   “Oh, Kathy, you didn‟t have to do that,” Anita said but she started

opening the gift. When she had and saw what it was she seemed thrilled.

“My sister has a print of this painting,” she mentioned, looking at the

Monet bridge card on top, “I guess you knew I like art from the large

section I kept in the bookstore. But I bet you didn‟t know my

undergraduate degree was in Art History,” she said, teasing Kathy. “I

wanted to work in a museum setting.”

   Kathy decided this was a good time to find out more about Dr. Roger‟s

personal background.

   “Um,” Kat started, “I have a problem I hope you can help me with.”

   “One moment!” the professor interrupted, excitedly. “I almost forgot.

There‟s a job opening in the University graduate library and I thought of

you. They send we professors advance notice to see if we have any

recommendation of students that might do well. It‟s a regular, clerical-

type job and I thought it might be a good match, with your bookstore

background. It may not pay very much, I‟m not sure, but I think it said

there were tuition and other benefits” she started rummaging around

through stacks of papers on her desk.

  “Ah, here it is,” she said, handing Kathy a sheet of paper on University

letterhead. “The closing date for professor recommendations is this

Friday and then they‟ll advertise it more publicly. Why don‟t you think

about it and let me know in the next day or two if you would like me to

recommend you?”

  Kathy almost started crying. There was that assumption again, like

her father‟s, that Kat might have her own plans and should be allowed to

make up her own mind about things concerning herself.

  “I would love that job!” Kat answered. “That‟s part of what I was

hoping you could help me with. You see, I‟m taking history courses

against my mother‟s wishes. She wants me to only take business courses

and get a business degree and my parents pay for my education. I got

an “A” on my James Fenimore Cooper paper and accidentally got excited

about that when I was sitting with them and she found out I was taking

history and before, when I took a history course, she took money off my

next tuition amount they gave me but I really love history. But I want to

get my degree in business, since I only have another semester or two

and I wanted to get a good job in a good company that paid tuition for

people, in their accounting department or something, and then I‟d be able

to afford a place to stay and I‟d have a good degree and could get a

better paying job and could pay for myself to go to graduate school in

history.” Kathy was almost huffing and puffing at the end of that

explanation and was horrified at how disjoint it must have sounded to her


   “I‟m sorry,” she said, abashed. “I just hoped you could help me get a

good business job or advise me on getting one or on what route to follow

so I could pay my own way and have an apartment and everything.”

   “Well,” Dr. Rogers started, kindly, “Let‟s think this through. This

semester ends next month and you are already taking courses now that

your parents have already paid for?”

   “Yes. I‟m taking a four hundred level history and Accounting III,” she


   “So, you mostly need a job so you can save for an apartment? Will

your parents pay for the rest of your business courses?”

   “Yes, I think so. I want to have an audit of my courses done but I

think I just need three more business courses and, if I had a job, I could

do like I did when I worked at the bookstore.

   “But I don‟t think the University library job pays very much,” Dr.

Rogers reminded her. “If you don‟t have a roommate, I don‟t know if you

can afford to live in your own apartment?”

   “But it has tuition assistance. My parents pay me a standard amount

each semester, a little more than I need, and I could use that extra for

housing maybe. But I don‟t know how I could get into history graduate

school and then I‟d have to pay for everything, housing and courses.

Even though they might be subsidized by working for the University, I still

would need more money. Maybe I can‟t take the job, “ Kathy concluded,


   “Well, maybe if you had scholarships and a graduate internship or

something in addition to the library job that might work.”

   “But I have no clue how to do all that and no clue if I have enough

credits in history or qualify for anything right now. I was thinking I‟d

have a good job, get my business degree in May, get promoted,” she and

Anita smiled at one another at her assumption, “spend the summer

semester taking any course necessary to make the history grad people

happy and then go about my merry way.”

   Anita pulled a piece of personal stationery toward her and started

scribbling something on it. She finished, tri-folded the page and put it in

an envelope and sealed it and wrote “Robbie Taylor” on the front and

handed it to Kat. “Here, why don‟t you go see my sister in the History

department, Dr. Taylor. She will help you.”

   Kat looked at Professor Rogers, stunned. “Your sister is Dr. Taylor?”

She had heard about Dr. Taylor, the chairman of the University history

department but she only taught graduate courses so she had never met


   “Yes,” Anita smiled. “And I happen to know she has office hours on

Mondays almost the same time as mine. Run along to the history

building and give her this note and see what she says. I‟ll put my

recommendation in for you for the library job and then you can come see

me in a week or two and we can do this whole „what next‟ exercise

again,” she grinned.

   “Oh, Dr. Rogers, I don‟t know how to thank you,” Kat gushed,


   “Yes you do,” she said, holding up the note cards. “You are a

wonderful student and person, Kat. That‟s why I asked you to work for

me and why I enjoy being able to help you. It is very rewarding being

able to help you. And call me „Anita‟,” she growled. “We‟re more friends

now than anything else.”

   Anita stood as Kat came around the desk towards the door and put her

hand out to shake. Kat suddenly realized that Anita was as shy as she

was so instead of shaking her hand, she reached over and gave her

mentor a hug.

   “Okay, off with you,” Anita said, terminating the hug early and opening

the door so Kat would leave; but she wasn‟t smiling, she was beaming.

   Kathy knew where the history department office was. She‟d never

been there but had certainly been to classes in that building. It turned

out that the history department was set up differently than she was use

to for the business school; instead of each professor having an office off

the hallway, all individually numbered; the history department had a

quarter of a floor; you went into a single door and that had a large open

office where the administrative people sat and then off of that main area

were more hallways and rooms.

   “Hello there, again. It‟s Kathy, isn‟t it?” Lisa, the grad student who

had befriended her in the dorm was sitting in the administrative section.

   “What are you doing here?” Kathy asked before she realized that

might not be such a good greeting. “I‟m sorry! Hi. Lisa isn‟t it?” Kat

didn‟t know how she remembered that after the last week or two. “Yes,

I‟m Kathy, Kathy Hough.”

   “That‟s right, Lisa.   Good memory!       What can I do for you here in the

history department?”

   “I was sent to look for Dr. Kennedy. Dr. Rogers over in the business

school sent me.”

   “You‟re in luck. I think she‟s here and that no one is with her. Have a

seat, let me call and tell her you‟re here.”

   Kathy nervously took a seat in the waiting area while Lisa talked on

some sort of intercom system to someone, presumably Dr. Kennedy. She

tried to think of what she was going to say so she wouldn‟t do her usual

babbling and got her clipboard, lists and a few other papers out of her

back pack as props. She wished she had dressed better.

   “She said to go on back. Down that corridor to the end; she has the

office right there, you‟ll see,” Lisa said with a wink. “I think Dr. Rogers

must have called her, she sounded like she was expecting you,” Lisa

added, conspiratorially.
  The door was closed and solid wood; there wasn‟t a glass panel like

there was in Dr. Rogers door. Kathy took a deep breath and knocked,

she hoped, firmly, but not aggressively.

  “Come in,” a familiar voice said.

  Kat opened the door and looked into the smiling eyes of Roberta


          almost died of embarrassment she praised me so much,” Kathy

         told Edita less than three hours later.

            “You don‟t think you deserved the praise?” the therapist


   “Well, maybe. I mean, she didn‟t say anything that wasn‟t true but I

can‟t believe I am going to have a job in a library, one of my favorite

places, and, after I get my business degree, I‟ll be a grad assistant for

the history department and working to get my graduate degree in history,


   “Because Mrs. Webster, I mean, Dr. Kennedy is department head, she

could call up all my courses and stuff right on the computer and go over

everything with me and even called Dr. Rogers to ask about business

courses, make sure she knew what courses I needed there too; it was like

having two of the best advisors in the whole world and then I come to see

you, the third,” Kat gushed.

   Edita smiled and gave her that look, the one that said to settle down.

   “I‟m just so happy I could burst. I‟m going to ask my stepmother to

look at my finances with me though I might wait to tell her about grad

school and the history portion of the equation until next semester. But
then I‟ll ask my dad to talk to his fraternity brother about finding me an

apartment and let my stepmother help me budget for it.       Maybe I‟ll ask

Amy if she wants to share a place with me.

   “Since I‟ll be working in the library, Roberta, Dr. Kennedy. . . it‟s weird

thinking that Dr. Rogers was Anita Kennedy before she was married. I

wonder if they decided together to use different names. I wonder which

is older and if they got their degrees the same time?” Kathy knew she

was jumping around too much.

   “Finish your thought, Kathy, „Since you‟ll be working in the library,‟

what?” Edita said to help her try to get back on track.

   “I don‟t know,” Kathy said, “I‟ll have tuition assistance through the

library job which my stepmother should like and I‟ll be getting my

business degree.   I hope my stepmother and I can along better now. I

guess I‟m just a little worried about the history part and I can almost

hear her telling me the library job isn‟t good enough for me and

demanding I get another.”

   “In all the stories you have told about what has happened between

you and your stepmother, it sounds more like she might be hurt and

disappointed that you have not talked to her, told her the truth about

things or explained what you wanted or were trying to do. Don‟t you

think your stepmother might just want what will make you happy and

wish you would help her understand what that is?”

   “I don‟t know,” Kathy said again. “Oops, I‟m not supposed to say that

anymore am I,” she grinned at Edita. “I‟m supposed to check my heart.”

   Edita smiled back and they both sat quietly, thoughtfully, together.

   “I think, now that I‟m on solider ground again, I‟m going to work on

trying to be more honest with my mother. In a sense, it is all for me.

I‟m the only one who can live my life and what I make of it is all that

counts. I want to be an honest, open woman, I use to say that when I

grew up I wanted to be „warm, wise, and whimsical‟. I guess to be that, I

have to practice what I preach. I‟m going to tell my mother the whole

story when I get home, ask for her and my father‟s help, both,” Kathy


   “It‟s time to stop,” Edita said.


Shared By: