The Birthday Gift

The Birthday Gift Cover

Dear Reader:  The 140-Peso-A-Night-Hotel in this short story with the ferocious dog and cruel manager is real.  I visited it on a recent trip to Mexico City.  I’ve visited Mexico many times over several years and found that the situation in the country is safer today than it has been in a long time.  True, there is the occasional murder of a foreigner, but the worst of the drug wars ended long ago.   The Mexican people are friendly and extremely helpful, and will assist you in any way they can just for the opportunity to talk with you.  Mexico is truly the place for magnificent scenery, accommodating hosts and affordable living.

    In Mexico City, you will find thousands of tourists from all over the world, particularly from North America and Europe.  In fact, nearly 2 million Americans permanently live in Mexico.  Most of the cities have an old Pueblo in the center of town, and American style shopping centers and malls on the outskirts.  Many of the towns are more modern in appearance than those in the U.S.  Happy reading and traveling.

After several months of begging, Jose finally saved enough money to buy a small assortment of electronic attachments, like charging cables and plug adapters, to sell to tourists and pedestrians from a small table on the sidewalk in central Mexico City.  He now made a small daily income, enough to live on, although he still slept on the street behind the dumpster on Calle Revolucion.

His heart was set on staying in a room for one night. It would be a birthday present to himself.  Every time he passed a sleazy hotel, down a side street with an abundance of trash and read the sign, “140 Pesos a Night”, he counted his money and dreamed about what it would be like to have his own room.

Today he was going to do it.  It was Friday and tomorrow was the 24th, his birthday.  He climbed the rickety wooden stairs, slid his hand through the hole in the screen, released the catch, and walked into the enormous wood paneled entry hall.  His steps echoed in the room as he walked across the wooden flooring and approached a dull green time-worn sofa, with its tall backrest towards him. Suddenly an enormous dog, as if arising from a mysterious bog, stood up on the piece of furniture, stretched and yawned, glanced at Jose and then emitted a stentorious bark.  Jose became frightened when the dog continued barking louder and louder.  He had second thoughts about staying, Perhaps I’ll just return to my place behind the dumpster on Calle Revolucion and save my money for another dayNo, I want the room and I told myself I would get it.  Then he noticed that the dog was on a leash and couldn’t reach him. He quickly walked to the far side of the room and squashed himself along the wall up to the counter.

He remember a small grocery store in another part of a city that had a Doberman pincher tied up outside the front door that barked at everyone, including customers.  Jose had never shopped in the store.  He wondered, How can someone could stay in business if he has a dog that scares off the customers?

A balding mid-50ish man sat behind the counter surfing the web on his cellphone.  When Jose reached the counter, it took the man about 30 seconds to look up.  He scowled, perused the boy over from head to foot and then said in a threatening voice, “What do you want? Soliciting is not allowed in this hotel.”

Jose reached into his pocket and pulled out the 140 pesos he had saved, “I’d like a room for one night.”

The man counted the money, glanced over at the wooden box that held the keys and reached for one.  He slapped it down on the counter, “No guests, no loud playing of music or you’re out of here!”

Again, Jose’s first reaction was to get his money back and walk out, but he stopped himself by remembering that he had promised he’d take a room for his birthday.  He imagined how comfortable it would be to snuggle up under the covers in a soft, clean bed and get a restful sleep. He wasn’t going to turn back now.

“Yes sir.”

“And they’ll be an inspection before you leave to make sure nothing was stolen or damaged.”

“Yes sir.”

Jose climbed the old wooden stairs.  Paint was peeling off of the walls and the stairs creaked and groaned as he walked up to the top floor.  When he unlocked the door and entered the room, he immediately strolled over to the windows, that were wide-open, and scanned the city.  He took in a deep breath of clean air as he noted the mountains and the city skyline and the activity on the street below.  He saw the cathedral, the plaza, and sensed the warm breeze streaming over the tops of the buildings.

He let himself fall backwards onto the bed and hugged a pillow to his chest.  He didn’t even notice the water stained walls, the crumbling plaster, or the cockroaches scurrying across the floor.  He fell asleep immediately with a smile on his face.

He slept for several hours, and when he awoke, he showered in the small bathroom attached to his room, even though no hot water was available.  He then washed his worn and dirty garments, put on his spare shirt and pants and put the washed clothes on a hanger near the window to dry.

He moved a discolored and stained bench, the only other piece of furniture in the room against the wall near the entrance.  He then sat down to eat the meager meal of fried beans and flour tortillas he’d bought from a street vendor.  He spread the beans over the tortilla and dipped it in a cup of warm tap water to bring out the flavor and make it more filling – A Meal Made for Kings!

He needed to buy a few items from the market, so he put on his sandals, locked the room door, and walked down the stairs.  When he enter the lobby, the massive dog began barking, so he walked quickly towards the exit.  Just as he reached the door, a booming voice issued from the man behind the counter, “Come over here right now!  Leave your key at the counter when you go outside the hotel.”

Jose handed it to him. The man grabbed it and threw it down onto the counter with a mean look in his eyes. Jose quickly turned and left, careful to walk on the far side of the hall away from the dog that was lunging and barking at the end of its long leash.

When Jose returned, he retrieved his key, climbed the stairs, ate another snack, and then went to sleep for the night.

In the morning he felt much better than he had in a long time.  He showered again, reveling in the feel of the warm soapy water on his skin.  Because no towels were supplied by the hotel, he dried off with a spare shirt.  He put on the dried clothes he had washed earlier.  Finally, he took out a bag of avena (oats) poured some into an old tin can and then poured apple juice over the meal from a small 6 once container.  Another royal meal!

He exited the room, locked the door, stopped at the desk to hand in the key, this time a middle aged woman, (probably the man’s wife), and scurried past the barking dog to the exit.  Just as he was leaving the room, he noticed the dog tilt his head to the side and make a whining noise.

As he was walking down out, a boy of about his age was ascending the stairs.  He was dressed well, a brown sport coat with blue slacks, white shirt, black tie and dress shoes. He was carrying a beautifully hand woven satchel with native Mexican patterns and a scene of Mexico City with snowcapped mountains in the distance.  Without thinking Jose said, “Hey, I sure like that bag you’re carrying.” It was one Jose had seen in the Mercado and had dreamed of buying.

The boy responded, “I use it to carry my books to and from school; my auntie gave it to me for Christmas.  I love your shirt, where did you get it”

“A tourist gave it to me.”

“I’ve been wanting one just like it; unfortunately my parents wouldn’t let me have one.”

“I’m sorry, if you like it, I’ll give it to you; I’ve got a spare.”

“Let’s go outside, we’ll change shirts and then I’ll give you the satchel.  I got loads of them.”

“You will.  That’s fantastic; you know today is my birthday.  That’s the best present I have had since my parents died!”

“My names Gabriel, by the way.”

“I’m Jose,” and they shook hands.

While Jose took off his shirt and put another one on, Gabriel took his books and notebook out of his shoulder bag.  They made the exchange.

Gabriel said, “I’ve got an hour before school, can I buy you breakfast?”

Although Jose had eaten, he was still hungry, he was always hungry. “I’d love it.”

As they walked, Gabriel said, “What are you doing in the hotel?  Where is your family?”

Jose told him his story, “My parents . . . they tried to immigrate to the United States and then they were going to send for me to join them.  I stayed with my grandmother; later we heard that they died crossing the desert in New Mexico.  Six months later, my grandmother died.  She was poor and all her possessions went to pay off her debts.  That left me living on the streets and begging for food to eat.  Recently I’ve started selling electronic attachments to the tourists; mounts for taking “selfies” are a great seller.  It’s been profitable so I’ve been able to save a few pesos.  The hotel was a Birthday Gift to myself.

“I’m so sorry – what about school, where do you go?”

“I can’t, I’ve got to sell my products on the streets to make money to live on.  How about you, are you staying in the hotel?”

“No, it’s my father’s business.  We live here. I was just stopping in to give him a message.  He loves my sisters and me and sends us to the best schools . . . . but he’s a mean bastard to all the low income guests that stay with us.”

They entered a fine restaurant right on the plaza.  The waiter said, “Master Gabriel, would you like a seat with a view?”

“Thank you Thomasina, that would be exquisite.”

The two boys chatted on their favorite subjects: cell phones, computer games, movies, the City.  Gabriel realized that Jose was smart and educated, but had fallen on hard times when his parents and grandmother died.

They walked back to the hotel, climbed the stairs and entered the giant lobby.  Instead of barking, the giant dog began jumping up and down on the end of its leash and whining.  Gabriel walked over to it, unhooked its leash and kneeled down to pet it.  The dog was friendly, and its massive tale whipped back and forth as Gabriel pet its ears.

Jose still cringed because he was afraid the dog would bite him now that it was off the leash.  He said, “He sure has a ferocious bark towards anyone who walks into the building.”

“He’s really friendly.  He’s never bitten anyone.  He just like to bark when he’s tied up all day.”  He pointed to Jose and said, “Meet my new friend, El Pero, go, boy, go.”

Jose turned sideways and braced himself to be attacked.  The dog smelled his shoes and pants and licked his hands.  The dog whined while Jose rubbed its ears and brushed down its back.

A few minutes later, Jose walked over to the counter and said, “Can I have the key to my room?”

The man slammed it down on the counter, “You be out of here by noon, or I’ll have the police haul you away in handcuffs.”

Gabriel came up behind Jose. His father said, “Hi Gabriel, how are you doing today?”

While his father was talking, Gabriel realized that instead of beating down all of the poor people, the hotel could be used to help them.

He said, “Father, this is my new friend Jose.  His parents were killed when they tried to cross the border illegally into the U.S.  Then his grandmother died.  That’s why he’s poor and been living on the street.

“I’m going to get an after school job to earn money to pay for Jose’s rent, so he can stay here.  I’m also going to talk to Kareen, my sister, and arrange for us to teach classes on basic work skills to help the people who stay here.  Come on father, it’s almost Christmas.  Let’s plant the giving spirit and nurture it throughout the year.  It’s shameful the way we treat people, as if they are animal only to be used to make us money.  We can assist them and improve their abilities, so they can have better lives.”

The man, if nothing else, loved his children.  Instead of railing at the two boys, he said, “I’ll tell you what, if you, Kareen and Jose clean the rooms after school and in the morning before you leave, I’ll let Jose stay here.”

“It’s a deal,” and he dashed under the counter and threw his arms around his father.

He then said, “Come on Jose, let’s take El Pero for a walk before school!”

 

Ken Wasil has written A Great Escape: Short Stores for Travelers, Mr. Thoreau Goes to Boston, Rivers of Words, African Safari Bootcamp for Women, and The Quick Style Guide for Writing for the Web and English Usage, and most recently The Car of the Future and Other Stories. His books are available on www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com and most major online bookstores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

7 Ways to Develop a Positive Mental Attitude

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Have a Morning Routine That Works for You

If you follow a routine that gets you thinking positively, getting things done quickly, the rest of the day will follow in the same way.  If you simply take things as they come, your day will be hijacked and you’ll end up frustrated and angry that you didn’t achieve what you wanted.

Your morning routine needs to be based on your lifestyle:  Do you have three hours to go to the gym, drink your morning smoothie, meditate, catch up with your social media messages?  Or are you raising a family and working and only have 30 minutes or less to yourself.  Whatever your schedule is, you can create a routine that will support you.  Spend 5-10 minutes meditating and 10 minutes on a mini workout your bedroom.  Then schedule time during the week for a full sessions at the gym.  Use that commuter time to listen to motivational tapes and audio books etc.

Positive Self Talk

95% of our positive mental attitude and how we feel and look can be created through filling our mind with positive thoughts and ideas.  First, take responsibility for your thoughts.  You produce your thoughts both positive and negative.  If you’re playing concepts and images of failure, loss, scarcity, they are in your mind programmed into you when you were a child  or being generated by you now.  You can reverse these negative programs that you are automatically repeating to yourself.

Throughout the day, practice positive self-talk, such as:

“I am powerful,”

“I am strong,”

“I am focused”

“I am confident,”

“I take action now,”

“I get the results I want.”

You can find a vast selection of subliminal music and music for “wealth, study, relaxation” and positive affirmations such as Jason Stephenson’s “Affirmations for Health, Wealth, Happiness, and Abundance,” from I AM on youtube.com. Most of the videos like Jason’s have 100,000 of thousands or even millions of followers and are highly professionally produced with magnificent pictures and videos.

If you leave “the field of your mind” empty, like an unplowed plot of land, it will inevitably grow negative thoughts or “weeds”.

Be with Positive People

Conversely, being around negative people is one of the easiest ways to grow a negative mental attitude.

Be with positive people, the kind of people you want to be like.  People who live life for success, people who set and achieve goals and who are successful.  You’ll become more positive and successful just from being around them.  They’ll support you and expect the best of you, just like they do of themselves, and won’t waste their or you’re time gossiping, smoking, watching television, hanging out on social media all day.

Visualize Yourself Already Doing What You Want

This is one of the key activities extremely wealthy people do and will guarantee your success.  You can literally reprogram your minds with visualization. Take 30 seconds a day on each goal.  1. See yourselves already achieving what you want. See yourself with that person you want to be with or having that successful business and making colossal amounts of money at it; doing the work you love and are passionate about, bringing in the income and saving the money you want, living in that dream apartment or house. 2.  When you visualize each goal notice how you feel; how do you feel being in a relationship with that special person you’ve wanted to be with?  Do you feel happy? Fulfilled? Satisfied?  How do you feel having your dream business and being wildly successful with it?  Do this every day and you’ll reach your goals.

Read and Fill Your Mind with Positive Food

Read, watch videos, listen to audiotapes and podcasts and music on success and in the area of your professional interests. Take courses in-person and online.  When you do these activities that you know are improving your life, your mind releases endorphins that heal and make you feel better. Experts in the success profession promote self-education over tradition education and degrees, “If you get a degree, you will learn a job; if you self-study you will become rich.”  I feel that both are stepping stone towards success.

Positive Health Habits 

What we eat and drink, how we live our lives, what we take into our minds affects how we feel, how confident and successful we are, and our attitudes.

Food is fuel.  When we eat healthy, we feel great.  We have more energy, motivation, a sense of well-being and a more positive attitude.

Exercising regularly is another way to improve our outlook.  One billionaire finds that an hour of physical exercise early in the morning is equivalent to 3-4 more hours of productivity in the day.  Thirty minutes of exercise a day at a gym, running, bicycling or other aerobic activity will make you feel stronger, give you more energy and make you more resilient both physically and mentally in overcoming stress and setbacks you’ll inevitably face during the day.

Have a positive attitude about age.  Decide how old you want to live to be.  See yourself living at that age healthy, “dancing” or “mountain climbing” or doing all the things you love to do.  Now develop healthy habits to get yourself there.

Stay Positive!

When those negative events happen during the day, look at them positively.  “Being stuck in traffic gives me more time to listen to that audio book I want to finish”.  “Being turned down for a raise gives me the chance to talk to my boss and find out how I can improve my work and get the promotion the next time.” “Not signing a client to a long-term contract, gives me the chance to evaluate my presentation and make improvements on the next one.”

“Being recalled from my diplomatic position or fired from my government job, gives me the chance to start a business or get out of the mindless rut and move onto something I am passionate about and that uses the skills I love to use.”

Have a sense of humor about it. What will my next job be?  “I’ll be a digital nomad and make $5000 a month while camping out on a beach in Thailand!  “I’ll join the circus and become a clown.”  “I’ll run for President.”

Stay in the moment; this is where the power to change your attitude resides.   Negative thought patterns originate from replaying events or thought patterns from the past.  You can modify your attitude and in doing so, will look and feel better and be more confident and

Global Warming: What People Are Saying From Around the World

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“We recently had a die-off of 12,000 Common Murre, a  Bird Similar to the Penguin”

I recently traveled in Europe where I met people from a variety of countries.  This is what they had to say about global warming.

The most dramatic testimony was from Jillian, a young woman who has lived in Alaska for 10 years and works in a national park.  “The glaciers and permafrost are melting at phenomenal rates.  And there are massive die-offs of wildlife: baby caribou are dying because the mother after giving birth crosses flooded rivers, that used to be frozen over, and her young are washed away and killed.  We recently had a die-off of 12,000 Common Murre, a bird similar to the penguin.  When we autopsied them, we found they had starved to death.  They dive to depths of up to 600 feet in the ocean to find food, but their food source has disappeared.  Every day we are see new changes, for example, the humpback whales are no longer coming to Alaska.

She said there are lots of liberal and conservative people in Alaska.  All of them admit that the environment is changing (they can’t deny it when they see that glaciers that used to cover an area are now gone and only begin miles away).  She said the difference is that the liberals know global warming is being caused by man; the conservatives believe it is a natural phenomenon.”

First Glaciers to Go Will Be Small Ones

“The First Glaciers to Go Will Be the Small Ones at Low Elevation”

Eloise – a student and captain of a tour boat in Amsterdam, “We can see the difference in the canals and tides – the sea is rising and the water is remaining higher in the canals for a longer period of time.”

Indi – also from Holland said, “When I was a child it would snow and the snow would stay on the ground through the winter.  Now it snows just a little bit and lasts for a day or two and then it’s gone. People are so un-used to it that they stay home and don’t drive.  Sometimes the snow causes most of the town to close down.

Elizabeth – from Vancouver, “Vancouver is the warmest place in Canada.  It’s getting worse – the weather is more unpredictable.  It’s changing.”

Saren from Norway said, “It’s getting warmer and the winters aren’t so cold.  I live between Oslo and the coast near a huge lake.  Ten years ago, the lake used to freeze completely in the winter, so you could drive a car across it or ice skate on it.  Now it doesn’t entirely freeze, so you can’t drive and it’s not even safe to ice skate on it.”

Leonis – from a small town near Berlin Germany , “20 years ago when I was growing up we had snow for 6 months a year.  Now it’s warmer and snows for only two months usually in January and February.  The snow usually melts after a few days.”

Anda from Warsaw, Poland, “It’s getting warmer.  We don’t get much snow in the winter.  Sometimes we don’t even have a white Christmas.”

A Florida boat captain I recently met in Athens, Greece, said, “People in Hungry told him they used to have a white Christmas.  This year there was no snow as late as the middle of January.”

He also said that he didn’t notice much change in Florida.  He said the cities redo the beaches every year, so it’s difficult to tell if the sea is rising or not.

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Residents in the upper Mid-West of the United States, central Canada, and New England are saying that the winters are getting more severe and the snow and cold weather last longer, from November through May.

When will the people of the world decide to work together to limit global warming?  When heat soars to 65 Degrees Centigrade in tropical latitudes and masses of people die off?  When cities such as New York City and Miami and whole regions of countries flood and are under water?  When agricultural land becomes so barren and water so limited that food cannot be grown?  

 

 

Achieving Your Dream Goals in 2020

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“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.”

Orison Swett Marden

Goals are objectives you want to achieve in a specific time frame. A goal could be buying a new car, moving into another apartment, or even buying a house.  Your target might be making more friends, starting a business, getting in shape and loosing weight, getting into a romantic relationship, or even changing significant others.

Vision

If you haven’t spent time considering your yearly goals, the best place to begin is to write down the vision and dreams of how you want your life to be in 5 years.

The key to achieving your goal is to start big! Spend a few hours dreaming.  Tell yourself, If I could have want I really want, what would it be?

Imagine what you want in five . . . ten . . . . twenty years.  Picture what you’d like to have accomplished when you are old and looking back over your life.  This will get you out of the immediacy of having to achieve a goal in a certain amount of time or by a certain date.

Often the real reason we set aspirations is how they will make us feel when we accomplish them. Consider how you will feel riding in that new car, receiving those huge monthly deposits in the bank from your new job or business, or going out with that person you wanted to be with.

Let go of any restrictions, such as I don’t have much education, or money, or I’m not smart enough or that skilled, or I’m too old or not pretty enough. Or I’ve got debts and a family and responsibilities; I don’t have time or resources to do anything else.   Or thinking, What would my friends, teachers, or family say?

Remember, you can do it. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

If you are stuck, Freewrite.  This is a form of brain storming authors use to get their thoughts and stories flowing.  Simply sit down and write as fast as you can without consideration for grammar, structure, punctuation or any other requirements.

Instead of saying, I want a new car . . . however with payments and insurance costs (as well as rent and bills) I could probably afford a used 2012 Nissan Murano or Mazda 3 for about $4000. Start with what you would really want.  Is it a hot sporty Porsche 911, a top of the line Mercedes, a new Ford F-150 Raptor truck, or perhaps you want to save on gas and at the same time help the environment with a brand new Tesla Roadster?

If you’re dreaming of improving your living situation, let go of being stuck on the budget for a cheap room, apartment, or small house with barely enough space for a family of four to sit at the dinner table. What is it you really want?  What neighborhood? In the city center or the woods?  Do you like modern or colonial style?  Would you like to build your own?

Follow through in all areas of your life: career, work, family, relationships, acquiring new skills, education, spirituality, self-improvement, friendships, leisure and pleasure.

How about contributing to your school, community, country or the world? Is there a project you’d like to take on?  Contribute to people’s health with a You Tube channel?  Raise awareness and action on improving the environment with a blog or an organization that reduces Global Warming?

Write out the goals and create a vision board with pictures representing each aspiration. Then visualize them every day.

Sure, you may have to start with working on smaller goals in 2020 to begin pursuing your dreams, such as getting a part-time job while you’re starting your own high-tech company.

However, if you follow through on the principles of success and dedicate yourself to achieving your dream goals, YOU WILL ACHIEVE THEM.

Having spectacular long term dreams that you are passionate about will motivate you day in and day out and propel you through roadblocks, obstacles, setbacks and being “hit in the face” by competitors.

Set Goals for 2020

Once you have your long term vision established, write down what you would like to achieve in 2020. Make the goals specific and measurable.  If your vision is to start a Social Media company, write down the steps you can take towards those goals in 2020.  You might take classes or self-study to learn the coding skills you’ll need, build a network of freelancers you can outsource work to that you won’t have time for yourself, and begin creating the apps you’ll use for your online enterprise. And you may want to work for a company like Facebook, so you can increase your income and learn as much as possible about social media.

If your goal is to find new employment, write down exactly what kind of company you want to work for, its size, working environment, and exactly when you want to have the new job.

Next write down specific quantifiable steps you’ll take to achieve your goals such as researching the contact information for 100 companies, sending out 20 resumes or CV’s a week, and following up with phone calls or emails to the contact persons.

Avoid setting objectives for items that you can’t control such as “how many followers your blog will have”; instead focus on what you can control like the number of blogs you write each week and the content. And throw out that word resolutions from your goal setting vocabulary.  They of course are made to be broken and forgotten.  Finally, toss out the word perfect; perfection has been the undoing of more goals than there are stars in the universe.

DSC00025 Clock Sculpture at Paris, France Train Station

The Daily Routine

Include “a daily routine” you’ll follow to make it easier and automatic to take the steps you plan to take every day. Be sure to include visualizing the goals and scanning your vision board every day.

And most importantly, establish a system for reviewing and measuring your progress whether it’s once a day, week, or month.

Writing down your goals and reviewing them regularly and making them “SMART” will help insure that you’ll achieve them.

S  Specific

M Measurable

A Attainable

R Relevant

T Time bound

Be sure to review your goals and progress and consider making changes to improve your focus and your results. I keep a “pocket goal notebook” where I write down new ideas on my objectives as I go through my day.

Finally, Promise yourself rewards for achieving each step: if your goal is to write a chapter a week on your next book, give yourself that dinner out with that special person, or seeing that new blockbuster movie or your favorite band , or taking that hike in the mountains you’ve been wanting to do. When you achieve the yearly goal itself, give yourself an extraordinary reward such as the trip to Europe you’ve always wanted, or that new laptop you’ve set your heart on.

Remember, GOALS ARE ATTAINABLE – YOU’LL ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS. 

Take that first step immediately and build your momentum throughout the year.  Please share your dreams and goals with others in the comments section below.

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Start AND HAVE WHAT YOU WANT.

 

7 Quick Steps to Starting a Business

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Caught in a layoff? Replaced with machines or robots? Tired of office politics and not getting ahead in your company? Working for the government and fed up with the current policies? Want to travel around the world and make a living while doing it? Are you happier working for yourself than someone else? Now’s the time to start a business.

When I ask people who are unhappy with their current situation, “Have you thought about starting a business?, most of then say, “I can’t do that, I don’t have the money. That takes years of saving and planning.”

That is not the case today. You can start a business almost immediately with the resources you already have and little or no investment. One man, for example, who loved to repair things around the house and who had worked for a construction company, felt ready to go out on his own. He designed and printed a handful of flyers promoting his business at an internet cafe for $10. He then went door to door in a neighborhood telling people about his services. In two days he was getting work and getting paid in cash. Within a month, he was living off of the money he was making.

The internet has made starting a business easier than ever. You can create an enterprise with almost no investment and begin generating income immediately! You can literally build a business and make money doing anything. This article is the first in a series to discuss How to Start a Business. It will open your eyes to how easy it is and tell you about some of the possibilities available to inspire you to take the leap of faith and do your own thing.

Do What You Love to Do

Love to write? You can write articles, blogs, web content, and ebooks, get them published, and begin making money off of them immediately.

Collect books, CD or DVD’s of music or movies? You can sell and trade them online. You can ship them off to companies and they will store and sell them for you and then pay you on Paypal or in your bank account.

Are you creative and love art, photography, graphic design? You can build a website and sell your work, or, for example, post photographs on sites such pixels.com and they will sell them for you. You can even design your own photo sharing app.

Don’t have the money to get started on your plan? Here’s an easy solution, post your own creative projects on kickstarter.com. Chances are someone will fund it for you. Millions of people visit this site looking for endeavors they want to invest in.

Do you dream of designing a game or app and raking in the prestige and money that goes along with launching one? It’s simple to do it online and you don’t even need to know how to code. Find out how.

Enthralled with style and fashion? You can sell consulting services on sites like Fourrer and design clothes online. Some of the sites listed will even manufacture your clothing for you.

Are you a car, motorcycle, or bicycle affectionado? Sell parts or services on ebay or your own website. One man who loves bicycles and bicycle racing builds custom made bicycles and sells them all over the world for $1000 to $20,000 each.

Love to watch TV, cook, eat, go to the movies, invest in stocks and the market? Start a blog telling people about the best shows, foods, flicks, and companies to engage with.

Do you work for a company or are an expert in a field and feel you have accumulated enough knowledge and skills to venture out on your own? One woman who started a consulting business, began selling her services while she was still employed. When she quit her job, she already had customers to take with her. She then was able to sell her consulting to her previous employer.

Whatever you love to do, you can turn into a business. And if it’s something you like to do, it won’t feel like “work”, it will be “play” and you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

Secrets to Starting a Successful Enterprise

Choose a business you are passionate about. Your energy and enthusiasms will motivate you and keep you going. Your work will be fun and you’ll love of it will carry you through the start-up and keep you motivated.

Select a field you want to learn aboutAll businesses require a certain amount of knowledge and research. In addition to learning how to set up and run a business, you’ll need to learn about the range of products and services available in your field, your competitors, how to market and sell your products or services, and a hundred other details. When it is something you want to learn, it will make the process so much easier.

Consider starting a concern that generates passive incomeMany of us workat a job and get payed for our work with an hourly wage. Passive income is the generating of money without repeatedly putting in the labor. Ebooks are a great example. I write and publish my ebooks only one time, yet they continue to generate income 24 hours a day, years into the future on www.amazon.com and other major ebook stores. This allows me to write more books or get involved in other activities, either leisure or money making. Of course with any business today, the web allows us to sell and market 24 hours a day.

Start a business, especially the first onethat requires a small investment and can generate an immediate incomeYou’ll quickly see your progress and be motivated to continue. If your ideal enterprise is manufacturing a new “green car” that competes with Tesla, for example, and will take years and millions of dollars to start and build, begin another business first, such as helping people select hybrids, and then begin saving your money. Thecustomers you gain will remain your customers and buy from you when you manufacture your own vehicles.

If you want to start a business that requires a large start up investment, such as becoming a photographer, you can rent equipment and studio space from an established company until you save the money to buy your own. Better yet, this site https://www.crowdfunding.com lists organizations that find people who will give you money to start your business.

Dear reader, why not take the challenge? Start a new and better life today and a business that is fulfilling, rewarding, and fun.

Ken Wasil is a writer of books and an online marketing consultant for small businesses. He has started and run several small enterprises. He has written The Quick Style Guide for Writing for the Web and English Usage, A Great Escape: Short Stores for Travelers, Mr. Thoreau Goes to Boston, Rivers of Words, African Safari Bootcamp for Women and The Car of the Future and Other Stories. His books are available onwww.amazon.com and most major online bookstores, just search for Ken Wasil.

 

7 Steps to Begin Writing and Overcoming Writer’s Block

Life of Pi

The secret to getting your project finished and overcoming writer’s block is to just write it.   Write it NOW.  We are better writers and have more to say than we believe.  We get stuck worrying about, “What people will think”, “Will it be good enough”, “I can’t write as well as she does”, and a thousand other distractions.  In addition, most of us have been chastised by an exacting teacher or parent and are still afraid of being scolded.

You’ve got to go ahead and write it as quickly as you can.  Just sit down and do it.  You can return to your work to cull out the parts you want to keep, to edit, or rewrite it.

The days of agonizing over every word and sentence, like Ernest Hemingway did, are gone.  People today are looking for vibrant alive work. One of the best ways to create it is to write spontaneously from your inner self.  Don’t worry, with all of the online publishing opportunities, you’ll get your work circulated.

I like Nerma Moore who describes how to write the fifteen minutes article www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-write-a-great-blog-post-in-just-15-minutes.  She doesn’t have time for writer’s block.  You might also take the advice from  readers who say, “The best blogs are the ones that are written spontaneously when the author lets his or her self shine through.”

If all else fails, just keep writing no matter what the quality.  Put the writing you know is poor at the lower extreme of your pile of completed work. When you reread it, you’ll be surprised at how good some of it is.  Eventually you’ll find your voice and writing-self again.

Brainstorming

 Once the topic is clarified, the writer can brainstorm to develop thoughts, feelings, plots, and characters.  The techniques of brainstorming were first used by NSA to create ideas and find solutions related to space travel.  Brainstorming is the sharing of ideas in a group, between individuals, or with oneself on paper or on a computer.  The goal of brainstorming is to generate new ideas and encourage creativity by expressing everything that come to mind without judging or editing it.  Ideas build upon themselves and what may appear to be a dead end, can lead to new and inspiring solutions.

Free Writing 

This is my favorite.  It is a free-flowing of thoughts, ideas, feelings, and images.  The writer writes as fast as possible about a topic without regards to spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, or format.  Again, the purpose is to encourage creativity and get the words down on paper or into an electronic file as quickly as possible.

Clustering

Clustering, another form of brainstorming, uses dialogue box connected by lines to create pictures or flow charts.  Main ideas are written in the first oval and then new ideas, which flow from these, are written in other dialogue packets connected with lines.

 Additional Ways to Break Through Writer’s Block

  • Step away from your writing project and do creative activities: play music, paint, draw pictures, and dream . . . .

 

  • Find the time of day when your energy and creativity are the strongest. You’ll automatically tap into your subconscious flow.  Some people come to life late at night; for others the early hours of the morning are a well-spring of productivity.

 

  • Write thirty minutes before going to bed. Your mind will work on your project while you’re sleeping.  When you wake up, jot down your throughts.

 

  • Do activities totally un-related to writing where you can easily have a positive outcome, such as hold meetings at work or with friends, cook a dinner for guests, or organize your files.

 

  • Take a long break from writing–spend an evening out on the town, take a weekend trip to the mountains or the beach, or your favorite resort. When you return, you’ll find that the writer’s block has mysteriously vanished!  writersdigest.com/editor-blog/guide-to/literary/ agent/7-ways-to-over-come-writer’s-block.

 

Now You Can Enjoy Your Writing

 Try out some of these techniques.  You’ll find you’ll have your work finished in record time.  You’ll be saying to yourself, “Writer’s block, what’s that?”

 

For more on unleashing your writing, please read my book The Quick Style Guide for Writing for the Web and English Usage.  I have also written A Great Escape: Short Stores for Travelers, Mr. Thoreau Goes to Boston, Rivers of Words, African Safari Bootcamp for Women, and The Car of the Future and Other Stories.  My books are available at http://www.amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com, just search for Ken Wasil.

 

10 Quick Steps to Free Self-Publishing

Author pic w Scrabble blocks

Have you been writing a book or dreamed of writing, but been overwhelmed with the prospect of finding a book agent and a publisher?  Have you been producing quality poetry for years that your friends tell you is awe inspiring, but thought the only way you’d ever get it published was to pay a publisher a fortune to print it?

There’s a simpler way; it’s called self-publishing.  You write a quality document, create a book cover, and then upload them to an ebook distributor.  And just like magic, you’re a published author.  And you can do it all for free!

Ready, Set, Go!

First you need to write a quality book.  I recommend reading up on the writing process and what it takes to pen a books that keeps the reader’s attention from start to finish.  It’s also a good idea to have an excellent working cache of sentence and paragraph structure, grammar, and punctuation.

However, DON’T FOCUS ON FORM.  THE MOST IMPORTANT GOAL IN ANY WRITING IS TO GET YOUR WORDS ON PAPER. 

Ebooks have broken the publishing industry wide open.  In the past, publishers controlled all content and the authors who were published.  Now vast new topics in both fiction and non-fiction are being created and huge numbers of writers are appearing in ebook stores and in print.

One of the most effective ways to get started is to use brainstorming techniques.  I find “free writing” extremely effective.  You simple sit down and write as fast as you can without editing what comes to mind and without concern for grammar or punctuation.  For more techniques to loosen up your pen, read my book, “Writing for the Web and English Usage“ and my blog “Overcoming Writer’s Block”.

The days of agonizing over every word and sentence, like Ernest Hemingway did, are gone.  People today are looking for vibrant alive work. One of the best ways to create it is to write spontaneously from your inner self.

You’ll want to submit the best possible document you can, so once you’ve written your book, edit it and then ask friends and family to read it and give you feedback on how to it improved.  Then edit it again until you’re happy with your document.

Next design a book cover.  You can hire a graphic artist or use an online graphic website such as Canva or Poster My Wall. These sites make designing book covers as easy as creating a Facebook page.

author w book of Harry P 400

Finding a Publisher is Easy

Now choose an ebook distributor.  Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Streetlib, and PublisherDrive submit your books for free to ebook stores.  They make money through keeping 10 to 15% of the profit.  They pay you 85% to 90%. Most of them distributor to the major stores such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Google Books.  Some have extensive distribution networks.

PublisherDrive distributes to ebook retailers that other aggregators don’t reach.  Streetlib reaches the major U.S. retailers and is strong in Latin America and Western and Southern Europe.

Distributors such as Book Baby and publishgreen.com charge an initial fee for their services.

All books are given an International Standard Business Number (ISBN) which is the universal way to identify it, like the model number on your cell phone.  Aggregators usually issue these numbers for free.

When you’re starting out, stay away from the publishing houses that offer complete services from editing, to coaching, marketing, and printing.  They’ll charge you thousands of dollars and require 3000 print minimums. You may end up with a storage room filled with cases of left over books.

Amazon is the place to be with your book.  Most of the ebook distributors place books here.  You can also self-publish on Amazon’s KDP.  It even has a book cover making tool.  Just visit www.amazon.com

Amazon asks you to choose between its platform and Smashwords, a major competitor of Amazon.  The choice is obvious.

You can now access, Creative Space, a print on demand distributor, through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publish (KDP).  I highly recommend it.  This allows you to sell both ebooks and printed books on Amazon.  Creative Space also distributes to Barnes and Noble, Ingram, NASCORP, libraries, and academic organizations.  Many authors order printed copies of their books to give to friends and family.

Ingram Sparks and Barnes and Noble are the world’s largest book distributors.  It’s worth your time considering publishing with them.

Once you’ve chosen your aggregators(s), upload your book and watch it come alive on the best ebook stores.

Marketing is the Key to Book Sales

To sell our books, most of us need to engage in marketing.  Even authors who are given a contract and paid from traditional publishers such as Penguin, must promote their books on tours, on the web, and through blogs.

Of course if you’re talented and lucky, your book will take off on its own like Andy Weir’s The Martian.  It was his first novel. He wrote it because he liked to dream about space travel.  He posted the story chapter by chapter on his website and quickly built a following.  He was soon approached by a book agent who quickly arranged for The Martian to be published.  Soon after, Mr. Weir was offered a movie contract. The rest is history.

author w book 500

You can get free exposure for your book on book promotional sites such as Good Reads and library thing. These sites are popular and you’ll find hundreds of them.  You can post your picture and profile, samples of your work, and your book cover with links to your website or Amazon where customers can make purchases.

Also consider writing and posting press releases, advertising, and building and marketing to an email list of followers.  Be sure to read my next blog on marketing for authors.

Now you’re ready to sit back and enjoy the process and make money 24 hours a day!  Seeing your book on the web and holding a printed copy in your hand is an incredibly rewarding experience! Likely, you want to start planning your next tome.  Congratulations on becoming a published author!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review of “It Can’t Happen Here” from Sinclair Lewis

Sacha Baron Cohen in the movie The Dictator

Picture of Sacha Baron Cohen in the Movie “The Dictator”.

Like Margaret Atwood’s dystopia novel A “Handmaid’sTale”, “It Can’t Happen Here” gives a worst case scenario of the future. It is about a politician named Buzz Windrip getting elected President, who shouldn’t be.  It takes place in 1935, a time similar to ours, after the financial upheaval of the Great Depression, and the rise of dictators such as Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, and Hirohito in Japan. In addition, Communism was on the rise in Russia and Socialists and Communists were infiltrating American society and the government.

Sinclair writes, “for those with a bad case of gimmes (people that had been beaten down by the depression and who were so poor, they’d do anything to put extra money in their pockets), he promises to give every man and woman $5000 (a promise he never keeps). He promises fellow politicians to support their bills if they support his, and he gave interviews on sustainable farming.  He gave his opinion on backless bathing suits and the secret strategy of the Ethiopian Army.  He grinned and knee-patted and back-slapped; and few of his visitors, once they had talked with him, failed to look upon him as their Little Father and to support him forever.”

While campaigning against President Franklin Roosevelt, and the honest candidate Senator Trowbridge, he formed his own volunteer militia to provide protection while traveling and at political rallies.

His popularity grows and he defeats his opponent in the primary to run for President.  One of his first acts as President is to increase the size of his private militia and make it an auxiliary of the regular army.

After he settles into offices, he institutes his real agenda. He revokes women’s right to work and tells them their place is only in raising children and working in the home.  He restricts Blacks and Jews to the most menial jobs and pay.  He uses his militia to arrest and imprison his enemies and critics including the half of Congress that does not support him.  He takes over and controls all forms of the media and most medium to large companies.  He restructures American society, dissolving the states and forming eight large provinces in their place, closing down the colleges and universities and forming his own.  In essence, he becomes the first United States Dictator.

The story is seen through the eyes of Doremus Jessup, a newspaper publisher and family man.  Lewis writes, “The one thing that most perplexed Doremus was that there could be a dictator seemly so different from the fervent Hitlers and gesticulating Fascists and the Caesars with laurels round bald domes; a dictator with something of the earthy American sense of humor of a Mark Twain, a George Ade, a Will Rogers, an Artemus Ward.”

Doremus publishes the truth as he sees it and is thrown into prison for criticizing the Windrip regime.  He is given a choice: stay in prison or help train Windrip’s men to run his newspaper.  He chooses the later, but while he is doing so, he and other rebels form an underground, start their own newspaper, and tell the truth about what is happening in America.

Most people support Windrip, especially since he tells them that he has eliminated all poverty and crime and put everyone to work.  While Windrip’s military thugs beat up, imprison and kill normal citizens, the underground opposition will stop at nothing to see Democracy returned to the United States.

“In the confusion of the summer and early autumn of 1937, local Minute Men (Windrip’s personal army) had a splendid time making their own laws, and such congenital traitors and bellyachers as Jewish doctors, Jewish musicians, Negro journalists, socialistic college professors, young men who preferred reading or chemical research to manly service with the Minute Men, women who complained when their men had been taken away by the Minute Men and had disappeared, were increasing beaten in the streets, or arrested on charges that would not have been very familiar to the Judiciary.”

“All over the country, books that might threaten the Pax Romana of the Corporate State were gleefully being burned by the more scholarly Minute Men.”

Doremus and his family, friends, and the underground remain strong against Windrip’s dictatorship.  Doremus eventually escapes to Canada where he continues his subversive work and watches as Sarason, Windrip’s second in command, carries out a coup to become America’s second dictator.

I highly recommend reading It Can’t Happen Here; it shows how vulnerable Americans are and how our form of government can be so easily subverted.  One man with evil intentions can appoint his friends to all the powerful positions, and destroy democracy forever.

Security Guard Mom

1

Jenette really didn’t want to return to work after being a house wife for eighteen years. She had held out as long as possible, but with six girls, ages seven to eighteen, and the life insurance money running out, she had to.

She had been looking for work for over three months. She applied for secretarial jobs, but they wanted someone young, pretty, and up with all the latest software programs. She had also applied for sales jobs because she had been an Avon Representative for many years, but still there were no offers. She’d contacted the employment agencies, those organizations that sent temporary help to companies, but times were tough and they had more than enough applicants.

The only offer she had was from Mr. Thompson, her next door neighbor, as a security guard for his agency. He contracted with businesses and companies to provide their in-house security force when they didn’t have their own or need extra help.

She thought, “Imagine me being a security guard . . . would I really be able to hit someone over the head with a baton. She thought back to her career aspirations in high school and college. She had studied to be an artist. She graduated from The Boston School of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. Then spent two more years earning a teaching credential. She dreamed of taking the advertising industry by storm with innovative designs and ideas . . . but then she met Ben and had gotten caught up in a whirlwind of romance and love. Six months later they were married. After another year they were living in Hawaii and had their first child.

Ben encouraged her art work–he set up a studio in a spare bedroom and Jenette painted in oils and acrylics. She captured the dreamy, ineffable landscapes of Hawaii and painted portraits of the native people. She was quite good . . . she won prestigious art awards and had her work displayed in several galleries.

Her work earned the family a significant second income–enough to keep her in spending money, most of which went for more art supplies and stylishly clothes. But as they had more and more girls, art was relegated to a back burner and family life became a priority. And then dad got sick . . . and then Ben. It was those damn cigarettes–Ben wouldn’t give them up. Well, she’d have to go to work for Mr. Thompson.”

Mr. Thompson said that some of his clients requested women security guards because they were better at communicating with customers and that’s why he wanted to hire her. Well, she needed the money and she would just go through with it.

In the security guard training she looked so funny, an over-weight fifty-two year old blond women in a black uniform sitting next to big, bulky twenty to thirty year old black and brown men with dread locks and buzz cuts. There was only one other woman, a Latino lady from South Central Los Angeles.

She was required to buy her own uniforms, too. She took the list the training instructor gave her to the local police and security guard supply store and bought each and every item on the list. She bought two sets of black pants and shirts, heavy duty steel toe black shiny boots, a baton, a black aluminum flash light, a Smith and Western Model 317 22 caliber pistol, and several cans of mace. Again, she asked herself if she could really shoot someone.” She thought, No, there must be another way.

She held her own in the hand-to-hand combat with the other trainees. She learned to use police disarming self-defense moves, wield a baton, and use mace. She surprised herself by enjoying the target practice. Her pistol was light-weight, easy to fire, and she was an exceptional shot. But it was one thing to hit a cardboard figure with a baton, mace, or a bullet, and something else altogether to do it to a real person.

For her first assignment, Mr. Thompson sent Jenette to Tracy’s, a very distinguished department store in a nearby city. She thought, “This won’t be bad at all; there aren’t many criminals in Hollister. I’ll be able to spend most of the day reading and talking to the customers.”

She was assigned to guard the entrance on the women’s clothing floor. She thought, How lucky, I’ll keep up with all the latest fashions and use my employee discount to buy things for the girls.

She had the mid-day to 9:00 pm shift. That was just what she wanted, it gave her time to take the girls to school and run errands before going to work. Ellen, her oldest daughter, would be home at 3:30 pm to take care of the younger ones until 9:30 when she got home.

The first day was uneventful. Jenette just watched the customers go in and shop in the store. There were no robberies or anyone that looked like a criminal.

Besides being extremely observant because she was an artist, Jenette also had psychic abilities. She seemed to know when things would happen. For example, she just knew last January 25th that something bad was going to happen to her youngest, Carolyn. She knew someone was going to try to kidnap her and when and where it would happen. She was waiting for the man at his car when he dragged Carolyn over and tried to force her inside. She put her hand in her pocket and told the man she had a gun (which of course she didn’t} and that she would shoot (which of course she couldn’t), so the man let her daughter go.

The same thing happened when she saw a lady walk out of Tracy’s looking somewhat bulkier than she did when she came in. Jenette told herself, I know she’s stealing, I’m going to keep an eye out for her.

When the lady returned a few days later wearing the same faded brown knit suit, Jenette followed her through the store. She watched her pick up three colorful blouses and then walk into the ladies dressing room. When she came out, she was wearing the same suit, but she didn’t have the three blouses. Jenette said to the lady when she walked by, “I think you’ll look much nicer in those three blouses than you do in that old brown suit jacket you always wear.”

The lady said with a big smile, “Well, thank you. Now here are the price tags, I’m just going to wear them home under these clothes because they are so much easier to carry that way. I’ll pay for them on my way out.”

Good.” When they lady walked out of the store, Jenette asked her all about her family, her children, her husband, and where she lived. The lady described everything in a calm voice, but when she got to her husband, she burst into tears. Her husband had just died. She said that she was looking for work to support her two children. Jenette could empathize, of course, because she had also lost her husband. She thought it would help both of them to talk about it and perhaps she could get the woman a job with Mr. Thompson’s agency. So she invited the lady to lunch for the following week.

The next day the store was in an uproar when Jenette arrived. There had been a robbery on the morning shift and a guard had been shot on his way to his armored car after he had picked up cash from the management office. The criminals made off with $12,000 of the store’s money. When one of the thieves ran out the front door, the Thompson Agency guard tried to stop him, but he was shot in the leg from behind by one of the accomplices. Both guards were in the hospital but would recover. Mr. Thompson sent two additional security personnel to the store in case the robbers returned.

Besides the robbery, there wasn’t a lot of criminal activity at Tracy’s. Now and then she saw someone stuff a blouse into her purse, or a young teenager put on a spaghetti strap evening dress under her street clothes and not pay for it. She said to herself, I don’t have the heart to do anything about it. Wouldn’t it be terrible if a teenager were arrested and sent to juvenile hall. It could ruin the rest of her life: she’d have a felony record and would certainly be corrupted by the hardened criminals in the jail. It could even lead to a life of crime. And all the girl was probably doing was trying out shoplifting for the thrill of it. Wouldn’t it be horrible if that happened to one of my own daughters. The twins Nancy and Francy are just at that age, too. And she thought, A little loss was good for the store. The management expected 5 to 10% “shrinkage”. They could use it as a write off on their taxes. And they may even get reimbursed for it by their insurance company.

From time to time Jenette mused about the robbers who stole the $12,000. She had a funny feeling that they would return. She decided to be ready. She borrowed her second to the oldest daughter’s PA system (Karen was the lead singer in a band) and some firecrackers from Nancy and Francy that were left over from the 4th of July. She hid speakers on either side of the main isle and set up the microphone near her post at the exit.

The next day she saw a very attractive teenager, no older than fourteen, walk into the store, pick up a sexy evening dress, and then walk into the dressing room. When she walked out, she wasn’t carrying the dress. Jenette went over to her and said, “I bet you’ll look just magnificent in that evening dress.”

The girl stammered for several seconds and then said, “Oh, I, I . . . forgot to take it off. You know . . . you know, I want to wear it for my boyfriend. He says I’m pretty in dresses.”

I bet you are. You’re an attractive girl. Now, in my free time, I’m an artist. I’ve painted all my girls. I’d like to paint you wearing that dress.”

You would? Oh, Thank you.”

Now, go back into the dressing room and come out in the dress. I’d like to see how you look. The teenager did as she was asked. “Whow, look at you. I’ve got six daughters and I’m always tailoring their clothes for them. If we take that dress in a little in the waist and the bust, I think it will be just right. Let’s see. Do you have eleven dollars?”

Yes.”

Good, that will be enough to put the dress on layaway. Can you come up with five dollars a week?”

Sure, my parents give me a twenty dollar allowance.”

Excellent. Go back into the dressing room, take the dress off and put your regular clothes on. Take the dress to the front register and ask them to put it on layaway. Here’s my card. Give me a call when you’ve paid it off. I’ll paint your picture and you’ll be able to keep it.”

Oh, thank you, miss. I won’t forget this.”

* * *

A week later she arrived at work early and was standing outside the women’s entrance, staring at the parking lot and drinking her coffee latte. She saw an ominous looking silver van cruise across the parking lot and park near the street exit. She thought, “I bet those are those robbers back for another cash run. She called the police and then watched two men get out of the van and shop the women’s blouses in the area of the main store isle.

About ten minutes later, the “Guardera” armored car pulled up and two guards walked into the manager’s office. When they came out carrying bags of money, the two men from the silver van came up behind them with guns and hit them on their heads. They picked up the money and began running towards the side entrance. Jenette spoke through Karen’s loud speakers in a bold deep voice and said, “All right, we’ve got you surrounded. Throw down your guns and put your hands over your heads. Then there were several loud explosions (fireworks). She said, “Lay down on the floor with your hands behind your backs,” accompanied by several more firecrackers. The robbers did as they were told. Jenette handcuffed both of them. A few minutes later, the police arrived and took the robbers away.

Jenette was given approbations and a raise from Mr. Thompson and the Tracy “Metal of Honor” from the store manager.

A few weeks later, Mr. Thompson called Jenette into his office and congratulated her again on capturing the robbers at Tracy’s. He told her the he had another assignment for her—a high school. He said the school was a real challenge: there were gangs, shootings, drugs, graffiti was a constant problem, and there was lots of vandalism. He told Jenette that if she took the job, he’d double her salary. She loved children and schools and could certainly use the extra money, so she said agreed.

Chapter Two

She was assigned to work with Miss Snipe, the Vice Principal. When she arrived, she was told to wait in the lobby. She heard yelling and screaming coming from the VP’s office. Then she was kept waiting for over an hour. Jenette was tempted to leave, but since she was being paid for her time, she decided to wait.

When Miss Snipe walked up to her, Jenette introduced herself and smiled. The VP said in a stern voice, “Oh, you’re the one from Thompson’s agency, well come into my office; I want to tell you about the rules of our school and what is expected of security guards.”

She proceeded to lecture Jenette for fifteen minutes. Right away, she had second thoughts about staying, especially since she was told the last three security guards quit after less than a week on the job. Jenette decided to finish out the first day, anyway, before talking to Mr. Thompson about another assignment.

In the morning she was stationed at the side entrance near the electronic scanner to check the students for weapons and illegal substances. During the day she was assigned to stand outside the entrance to the girls bathroom. On her first day, she search the students who set off the electronic scanner upon entering the school: she found four knives, 2 pistols, a bludgeon, and a baggie of opoids. In the afternoon when she arrived at the girls bathroom, there was a cat fight in progress between two girl . . . pulling hair, biting, tearing clothes, yelling, and screaming.

One of the reasons Jenette had done so well in hand-to-hand combat against the other security guards in Mr. Thompson’s training was because she had studied and earned a brown belt in karate when she lived in Hawaii. So when she got to the fight, she jumped right in front of the girl throwing the punches. She used the force of the girls blows to flip her onto her back, and then she handcuffed her. The crowd of students cheered. She turned to face the second girl and stood in a karate stance, but the girl backed up and ran off.

Jenette returned to the girl on the floor and helped her onto her feet. She asked her about the fight. While in tears, she said, “She told my boyfriend I was sleeping around and a slut, so he’d break up with me. I love him and have always been a loyal girlfriend.”

Jenette was sympathetic and said, “I can understand why you were upset. Now, if I take the handcuffs off, will you go back to class and forget the other girl?’

Yes, Miss.?”

You can call me Jenette. And what’s your name?”

I’m Serena, miss.”

Now let me show you something. If you throw a punch like this to the solar plexus,” and she demonstrated it (her hand flat and her knuckles curled under) “your opponent will be incapacitated for several minutes. Now you try it.”

The girl stood in the karate stance and with all her “might” threw the punch at Jenette’s stomach, which she easily deflected. The crowd cheered.

Jenette said, “You’ve got it. Now go on to your class.”

The crowd broke up. A few minutes later, Miss Snipe came over. She said in an inscrutable voice, “Where are the two girls who were fighting?”

They’ve gone back to class . They said they’d forget the disagreement if I let them go.”

Miss. Snipe proceeded to lecture Jenette for five minutes on punishing wrong doers. She told her that the next time it happened, to turn the fighters in to her. Fighting on campus could result in severe disciplinary action such as suspensions and even notification to the police. She said it was important to punish wrong-doers to set an example for the other students. She then complained to Jenette about her wrinkled uniform and told her her badge was to low on her chest.

I’m sorry; I had a minor emergency this morning because one of my daughters cut her hand on a broken widow (that should have been fixed) and had to be rushed to the hospital emergency room. I didn’t have time to do my ironing before coming to the school.”

In the middle of the afternoon, a tall darked haired man with greying at the temples, dressed in a pinned-stripped shirt, tie, and black slacks walked over to Jenette and introduced himself. He was Mr. Wyse, the school principle. He was friendly and complimented her on her success in breaking up the fight that morning. He said he heard about it through a student. He jokingly asked her if she’d like to teach an after-hours self-defense class. He told her that he and Mr. Thompson were college buddies–that’s why Thompson’s agency provided the security for the school. When he left, Jenette thought, “Now I like that man. I wouldn’t mind working for him at all.”

On the way home, though, she stopped at the agency’s office to tell Mr. Thompson her reservations about Miss. Snipe. She said, “That lady is the reason there are so many problems on campus. She said Miss Snipe wears Prada, an allusion to the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” and the horrible manager the lady was who ran the fashion magazine. Mr. Thompson laughed and asked Jenette to keep him updated on Miss. Snipe and activity around the school. He said he’d have a heart to heart talk with Mr. Wyse about the VP.

Jenette got a desperation call from her daughter Carolyn, seven years of age. She had locked herself out of the house. She was crying and waiting near the front door. Jenette told her she’d be home within fifteen minutes. She told Carolyn to take the two dogs Rufus and Claudius for a walk. By the time she got back, she would be home.

Jenette said to herself, Oh, that poor girl, she’s having such a tough time right now; it must be the adjustment to her new teacher and her older sisters who are constantly harassing her.

The next day went about the same as the first – she confiscated three knives, a pistol and a rifle with a bump stock at the side entrance. On her first break, while running an errand to the principle’s office, she passed four boys with spray paint cans “tagging” the walls near the boys bathroom. They were using bright colorful spray paint in unique shades of green, red, yellow, and pale and dark blue. They were painting some not so great pictures of boys and girls dancing together to a band accompanied by stylized writing. Jenette thought, That looks a lot better than those plain puke green walls, anyway. She walked up to the boys and said, “Now I like that, those are really fine colors.”

Oh, it’s Kung Fu . . . that’s the name the students gave you after you broke up the fight yesterday. I’m Tobias.”

Jenette laughed and said, “Can I borrow those cans a minute?”

The boys gave them to to her. She went over to the wall and completed the dance scene. She drew a poignant image of two dancers twirling around the floor with a crowd clapping and a band playing in the background.

All three of the boys said, “Whow! That’s fantastic, Kung Fu.” Tobias said, “Will you teach us to paint like that?”

Sure, but not on these walls. It’s against the rules and will get you trouble.”

We did it just to make Miss. Snipe mad. She gets mad and yells at us no matter what we do.”

I know. Can I keep those cans? I’m going to ask Mr. Wyse if we can do a mural on one of the school walls. I’ll teach you how to paint with spray cans and other media such as acrylics and oils.”

She knew Miss Snipe would be along any minute so she went directly to Mr. Wyse and told him about the graffiti, the dance scene, and asked him if she could help the students paint a mural on one of the walls. Mr. Wyse laughed and said, “Sure.” He walked with Jenette over to take a look at the dance scene. He said, “Those walls look better than they ever have. We’ll leave that painting up there.”

You know, Mr. Wyse, the boys said they did the graffiti just to make Miss Snipe mad. They say she’s always on their case and won’t leave them alone.”

Mr. Wyse smiled and said, “Yes, she’s a real monster. The school board sent her here when the last vice principle Mr. Goodsight died. I’ve been trying to get her transferred ever since.”

She laughed and then went to her post outside the girls bathroom.

No sooner had she arrived, than Miss. Snipe walked up. She said, “Where are the four boys that did the Graffiti?”

Jenette handed her the spray paint cans and said that she let them go.

Miss Snipe proceeded to lecture her for fifteen minutes again about punishing wrong-doers. She said, “I could have suspended those boys and sent them to juvenile hall for vandalism. Then Miss Snipe pointed to Jenette’s black boots and said, “That sure is a pathetic job of polishing. Report to me first thing in the morning. I want to see a spit shine on those shoes. I want to be able to see my reflection in them.”

Yes mam.” And she thought, If she wants to see her image in my shoes, I’ll paint a picture of Medusa on them.

Miss Snipe said, “OK, you can go. I’ll call Mr. Georges, the janitor, to repaint those walls.”

You’d better talk to Mr. Wyse, I think he has other plans.”

Miss. Snipe stormed off.

* * *

Jenette was standing at her post outside the girls restroom. Several teenagers walked in and out. She got a call on her cell phone, “Carolyn, what’s the matter, honey?”

Mommy, I’m sick, I don’t feel good. Will you come home and fix my lunch?”

Your sister Roberta will be home at 1:00 pm. Tell her what’s wrong and she’ll give you something to take for it.

OK, mommy.”

Jenette heard a girl in the restroom talking on her cellphone. She waited for a few minutes and then walked inside. She heard, “It was dreamy. He took me on the bus. First, we went to Dennys.”

What did you have?”

I had a hamburger and fries and a strawberry malt. He had a beef steak and a malt. Then we went to the movies. We saw Beach Party III. Well, we didn’t see much of the movie, we, you know, the whole time.

Whoops, here comes someone. Talk to you later.”

A minute later, she sheepishly walked out of the stall and right into Jenette.

It’s Kung Fu. I was hoping to have a chance to meet you.”

You can call me Jenette.”

Well, I was hoping you’d teach me some of those karate moves . . . it’s the boys . . . they won’t keep their hands off of me especially when we go out on dates.”

Oh, I know, I’ve got six daughters. I know all about it.” Her phone rang, She whispered to the girl, “It’s Carolyn my youngest; she’s home sick again today.”

Hi, Carolyn, what’s the problem?”

Mommy, I heard a funny noise in the back yard . . . it sounds like someone climbed over the fence.”

Call Mr. Crumpet, our neighbor. He’s home most of the time. Gotta go, honey.”

Thanks mommy.”

Jenette said to the girl, “By the way, What’s your name?”

I’m Lucinda. I’m in the eleventh grade. This is my geometry class and I hate it. I hate the teacher Mr. Rotunda. too”

I understand what you mean. My girls have all hated math when they first started it. They had to study hard on the weekends just to pass the class. Now, Ellen and Karen are majoring in math and the oldest got straight “A’s”.

Maybe they can tutor me.”

By this time, several girls were listening to the conversation in the restroom. “Now, let me show you a karate move. Stand with your feet apart in a comfortable position. Good. This is what you do when someone tries to grab you. Try grabbing me like the boys do.”

Jenette caught her hand, pulled her forward by the arm, and then twisted it behind her back. She pulled it up just a little, so Lucinda could feel how it hurt.”

See, you’ve got them by the “balls” so to speak. It’s a real turn-off to the guys and it can really hurt.”

Can I try it?”

Sure. Lucinda stood with her legs apart while Jenette tried to grab her. Jenette let her catch her arm, pulled her forward, and twisted her around.”

Excellent. That’s just how it’s done.”

Thank you. Well, I’m going back to class now. I hope I see you again, Kung Fu.”

Chapter Three

The rest of the day was uneventful until she got home. One of Jenette’s and the family’s weaknesses was organization. There was junk everywhere scattered around the house. In the small TV room there were clothes, books, chips, cookies and plates all over the floor and under and behind the furniture. On the computer keyboard there were underpants, snacks, and “blue ice”. In the bathroom there were clothes, towels and make-up all over the floor, sink, and the back of the commode.

The first problem was there were too many people and animals in a very small house. The six girls shared three bedrooms and Jenette had her own room (Ben and hers) and Grandpa had his own bedroom and bath. There were also the two German short hairs shepherds, Rufus and Claudius, who spent most of their time indoors. That’s not to mention three parrots in cages in the house and two guinea pigs and four rabbits in the backyard.

The second problems was Jenette, and therefore her family, never wanted to throw anything out or put it back where they found it. Every storage space including all three closets, the garage, and several outdoor plastic storage cabinets were full-to-overflowing with house hold items. When anyone opened the door, they had to run out of the way to avoid being hit on the head by falling junk.

And, of course, the third problem, which Jenette could certainly be forgiven for, was that she was the sole parent and “bread winner” for six girls, a Grandpa, two dogs, three birds, two guinea pigs, and four rabbits. She just didn’t have the time to clean things out, put them back where they belonged, or train the girls to be organized.

Well, anyway, when she got home she couldn’t get into the TV room because there were too many things blocking the door. She knocked several times but with the TV on and the stereo going full blast in the kitchen, Carolyn couldn’t hear her. So she and Nancy and Francy forced the door open and found Carolyn rolled up in several blankets with half-eaten plates of food, cans of soda, and glasses of liquids lying on the floor nearby. She was with two of her friend watching cartoons.

Carolyn, your friends will have to go home. You don’t want them to get sick, do you?”

No mommy, but I feel better now.”

Girls, go on home. You can visit on the weekend.”

* * *

Things were quiet the following Monday on campus. Jenette only confiscated two guns, two knives, a baggie of uppers and a cudgel at the side entrance. On the morning break, she strolled through the playground and around the snack bar where most of the students congregated. She greeted a few by name, complimenting the girls on their dresses and answering questions.

She came to two boys in a heated argument. At first it was just a loud disagreement, but then they threw down their books and notebooks and looked like they were going to fight. She listened to their conversation for a few minutes. They talked about a girl. They were both going out with Renee Emerson and were arguing about who’s girlfriend she was. Jeffry Clinton said that since she was wearing his Tiger’s jacket (he was a football player and the Tigers was the name of the team), she was his girlfriend. Fred Medini, said she was his girlfriend because she wore his tennis letter on her sweater.

Jenette cut in, “Now I have six girls of my own and I’d say you both have good reasons to believe her to be your girlfriend. There’s one way we can settle this argument and that’s to ask Miss. Emerson, herself, who she’s going out with.

Jeff said, “Why not. That would settle it.”

Fred reluctantly said, “OK, if you want to ask her, I’ll go along with it.”

She said, “This might hurt your feelings guys if she says it’s not you. Can you handle that?”

They both hesitated and said. “Yes.”

Someone brought Renee over, she’d already been told about the argument.

When Jenette asked her who her boyfriend was, she said, “My boyfriend is a sophomore in college. Fred and Jeff are just friends.”

Fred and Jeff looked at each other, shook there heads, and walked off together.

* * *

Jenette was standing at her post after the lunch break. Every half-hour she’d go into the restroom and flush out the young women who were hanging out and talking to their friends or on cell phones. Just after she came out of the restroom on one of her rounds, she heard screaming and shouting coming from a nearby classroom. She ran in the direction of the disturbance, and saw students pouring out of the room. She asked a few of them what the problem was, but they kept running.

When she got to the entrance and looked in, standing tall and intrepid on the teacher’s desk, was a six-foot long monster that look like the star of a Japanese movie. It was a common iguana, indigenous to Latin America, with brown mottled snake-like skin, a dark fin with spikes on it on the top of its back and sharp protrusions on its tail. Its eyes were positioned on the side of its head and it had a deathly look as it flicked is long bluish tongue in and out. Two students were holding green leaves in their hands and slowly approaching it. She asked what is it?”

Ira Romonov said, “It’s my pet Iguana. I’m sorry, I brought it to school in my giant beach towel to show my friends, but it escaped when Mrs. Patrickson gave us the writing assignment.”

Jenette broke out into a fit of laughing. “You guys can take care of this yourselves. I’ll tell the students and teacher to come back in fifteen minutes.”

Of course, the teacher went to Miss. Snipe who was just about to call the police, SPCA, FBI, and other clandestine organizations when Jenette arrived in her office. She told her that the Iguana belonged to one of the students and that the boys would have it under control within a few minutes. Jenette said that calling the authorities would just create more problems for everyone.

Miss. Snipe said, “Nonsense. I could suspended the boy who was responsible for this and send him to “Juvie”. Wrong-doers must be punished to set an example for the other students.”

Fortunately, Mr. Wyse walked up during this exchange of words and told Miss. Snipe that he would take care of calling the authorities. He never did.

* * *

The art teacher Mrs. Engle had heard about Jenette’s encounter with the boys doing graffiti and had seen her dance mural on the school wall. She invited Jenette to her class as a guest speaker. Jenette taught the students figure drawing. She described the essence of the art form with lots of demonstrations using multi-colored chalk on paper on an easel. Then she asked the class to do their own sketches of a partner. The response was excellent, so Mrs Engle invited Jenette to teach a section of her class every Thursday. Jenette and Mrs. Engle along with the class planned to do the new mural that Mr. Wise had approved.

The art class was the second to last of the school day. So when it was over, she took up her post outside the girl’s restroom. When she arrived, Lucinda slowly walked up to her. She said, “Thanks for the karate lesson. The moves worked. After I did them on Joe, the guy I’ve been going out with, he stopped all of his groping and grabbing.”

Good, I’m glad to hear it.”

Anyways,” Lucinda continued, “Rachael is in there . . . she needs someone to talk to. She’s pregnant. I think she might do something desperate . . . like cut her wrists. She’s got razor blades.”

Thanks, Lucinda,” and then Jenette walked into the restroom. She found Rachael sitting on the floor in the far corner, crying. The sleeves on her blouse were rolled up and she held a razor blade in her right hand poised above her wrist.

Are your Rachael?”

How did you know my name?”

Lucinda said you might need someone to talk to . . . is she your friend?”

Sort of,” while continuing to cry.

It’s my parents . . . they’ll kill me if they find out I’m pregnant. They’re Catholic and real conservative. They’ve been lecturing me since I was a little girl about abstinence and waiting until I was married.” Sobs. Jenette put her arm around Rachael. She reached down to Rachael’s right hand and took the razor blade.

They always said that if any of their children got pregnant out of wedlock, they’d disown them.”

Jenette said, “There are lots of options and you don’t have to do anything about it right now.”

Todd and I just got going one night . . . we didn’t mean to do anything . . . but it just happened.”

It happens to thousands of girls everyday. I’ve got six girls of my own, I know. They’re been pretty good at keeping the boys off. But I’ll tell you about my second oldest Karen.”

Lucinda walked in and said, “Hi,” and then sat down on the other side of Rachael and held her hand.

She’d been going out with Rob regularly . . . but last year in March . . . she started acting funny towards everybody . . . sarcastic and combative with her sisters. I knew something was wrong. One day, her older sister Ellen and I were sitting at the kitchen table and Karen walked in. She was really ragging at Roberta, so Roberta just came out with it. She said, “Mom, Karen’s been like this for over a month now . . . and it’s because she’s upset . . . she’s pregnant.”

Karen broke down into tears. “She expected me to scold her, but, of course, I didn’t.”

I said, “Each of us, boys and girls has this sexual drive in us. Some are able to control it . . . but most of us find ways of satisfying it without the consequences of pregnancy. But some of us aren’t able to avoid getting pregnant and that’s OK. I said, “I really like Rob and still do . . . and I think he’s a good match for you. The two of you are going to need to decide what you want to do. Whether you want to keep the child, give it up for adoption, or even have an abortion. You’ve got some time. I suggest you talk to Dr. Franklin, our family doctor, and look into other resources to explore your options.”

Rachael began crying and then said, “My parents would never be reasonable like that. They’d want to put my boyfriend in jail for having sex with a minor. They’d severely punish me. They’d send me to a convent. They always threatened it.”

Jenette said, “Well, I understand. You need to accept your parents for the way they are and love them. Is there anyone else who might be understanding and willing to talk with you about the situation and help you?”

Todd’s parents are really cool. I can talk to them about anything. Maybe they’d help us.”

Good.”

Rachael continued to sniffle, but stopped crying.

Are you going to be alright now?’

Yea, I think so. I’ll talk to Todd, and together we’ll go see his parents.”

Jenette got up and returned to her post. About fifteen minutes later, Rachael walked out with Lucinda and smiled at Jenette as she passed.

* * *

The next day at school was a little quieter. She did her usual searches at the entrance and then took up her post at the girls restroom. At 10:17 am, Rebecca, Mr. Wyse’s secretary, came running up to her in an agitated manor. She said, “There’s a student in room 102B with a gun. He’s threatening the history teacher Mr. Ramirez. Miss Snipe is in there talking with him right now. Mr. Wyse asked if you might help defuse the situation. He said not to get yourself hurt. The boy is Michael Washington. He’s been a good student and his mother’s an elementary school teacher. This is not like him. Something phenomenal must have happened.

Jenette said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

When she got to the room, she looked through the little Plexiglas window in the door. She saw Michael standing at the front of the room pointing the gun at Mr. Ramirez and Miss Snipe lying on the floor unconscious. She knocked on the door and said in a gentle voice, “It’s Kung Fu, can I come in?”

Michael said, “Yes.”

She sat at a student desk about half-way up to the front of the room. She recognized two girls that she’d met, Lucinda, the teenager from the restroom, and Serena, the girl in the fight.

She said, “Mr. Ramirez, “Are you alright?”

He said, “Yes.”

What seems to be the problem?”

He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “I don’t know.”

Jenette began talking to Michael, “Michael, you remind me of my nephew Joseph and the time he ran away. He’s about a year older than you. He was an outstanding student in school. Well, this happened last year when he was about your age. He wanted to be the quarterback on the football team. He worked hard all summer and then on the weekends during the school year on his passing game. But you know, he comes from a family of “geeks” (laughter) with no athletic ability at all. Well, he didn’t make quarterback, in fact, he didn’t even make the first string. All his hopes were dashed. He wanted to earn an athletic scholarship because my sister’s family is poor like me and it was the best way to pay for college. He was also in love with a cheerleader, he thought that being the captain of the football team was the best way to earn her heart. So when it all fell through, he ran away. We finally got a call from him after he’d had a rough time of it: sleeping in the cold and rain, going without food, being robbed and roughed-up by people on the street. My sister’s husband flew across the country and brought him home.

When he got back, he resumed his outstanding scholastic standing and earned a scholarship to a major university based on his academic achievement. And he found a girl he liked even more that the cheerleader.”

Michael’s hand began quivering . . . and he slowly lowered the gun. She said, “I don’t want to pry Michael, but what seems to be the problem. I don’t want to see you get into trouble. You’ve been a good student and you’re from a good family. Mr. Wyse tells me your mother is a teacher.”

Michael said, “Yes.”

And you love your parents, don’t you?”

Yes.”

What happened?”

He began to cry. “It all started with Miss Snipe. We were goofing around in the school yard by the cafeteria one day and I knocked over a trash can. Well, she saw it and has made my life miserable every since. She’s told my teachers I’m a discipline problem and a slow learner. The teachers are all picking on me now. Mr. Ramirez calls me the “dunce.”

Lucinda said, “It’s true. He has the same schedule I do. Last term he had the respect of all the teachers, but this term they all pick on him.”

Is that true Mr. Ramirez?”

I’m afraid it is. I’m so sorry. I should have believed his transcripts and his performance rather than Miss Snipe. Michael, I’m sorry. I’ll talk to Mr. Wyse and we’ll straighten this out for you.”

Will that be OK, Michael?”

Yes.”

Jenette said, “Good. Now you can give me the gun and we’ll go talk to Mr. Wyse. He’s a fair man. He’ll understand.”

OK.” He turned the gun around, and slowly gave it to her, handle first.

Come on Michael. Class, you’re dismissed for the rest of the period. And Mr. Ramirez, you might want to take a few hours break or the rest of the day off. Will someone call an ambulance for Miss Snipe?”

Michael and Jenette spent several hours in Mr. Wyse’s office. Mr. Wyse was understanding and said he would not suspend Michael if he promised not to do anything like that again. Because he was the school principle and was required to follow the rules and the law, he recorded the incident in Michael’s record and called in the police. They spent another hour asking Micheal about the gun and where he got it and then confiscated it. With Mr. Wyse and Jenette’s help, they decided not to arrest him. The incident would be on his police record, but would be erased when he became eighteen.

Jenette didn’t even have time to return to her post outside the girls restroom. She went straight to her car to go home. She drove an old Volvo station wagon with faded blue paint. It had scratches and dents on the doors and sides and the bumpers were bent out of shape in many places. There was a streamline white storage container on the roof that looked like an upside down canoe with an assortment of fishing poles, building materials, skim and ocean boards tied on, under, and around it. Like her house, there were clothes, books, toys, food, and miscellaneous other items strewn all over the seats, dashboard, and floor. And the backseat was crammed full of plastic bags filled with “I-don’t-know-what” that couldn’t fit anywhere else.

When she got to her car, there was a crowd of students waiting for her. They congratulated her on saving Mr. Ramirez, who was a popular teacher. Of course, Miss. Snipe was another story. They asked her all sorts of questions about what happened to Michael and then about her life and family. A half hour later, she drove on home.

* * *

The next day, Mr. Wyse came up to Jenette when she was checking students as they walked into the school. He said, You’ve been doing an outstanding job for us. The students like you and everyday you are defusing significant problems. You know, our school has the reputation of being one of the worst discipline challenges in the district. You’re helping to change that image.”
“Thank you Mr. Wyse. I just love the students, the school environment and I enjoy working with you. My only difficulty here is Miss. Snipe.”

Well, your not alone. I hope you’ll be patient for a while longer . . . because I’m working on that problem and may have a solution very soon.

I was wondering if you’d help me with yet another unfortunate situation. One of our school neighbors, Mrs. Frucheau, has called to complain about students sneaking into her yard to retrieve soccer balls. You see, she lives in one of the houses right at the end of the field.”

I think I’ve seen her. Is she that old lady that sits on her porch in a wheel chair watching the traffic go by?”

Yes, she’s crippled and very old. Fortunately, she can’t hear very well so the sports activities on the field don’t bother her.”

Oh, I feel so sorry for her . . . she’s always wearing that drab old blue dress . . . and I bet she lives all alone.”

Yes, and she calls me about once a week to complain about someone climbing over the fence into her yard to retrieve a ball. Her rose bushes are right on the other side . . . so the perpetrator usually crushes a few of them while knocking off the flowers.”

Oh, that’s terrible. Those roses are probably all she has to live for.”

Yes, I agree. I’m on my way over there right now and I wonder if you’d come along and help me find a permanent solution to this dilemma.”

Sure, Mr. Wyse.”

They walked out of the side entrance and down the sidewalk to Mrs. Frucheau’s house. When they knocked on the door, they heard a gruff old voice, “What do you want? Go away, I’m busy.”

Mrs. Frucheau, it’s Mr. Wyse from the school. I came to apologize for the students going into your yard.”

In a gruff voice she said, “Oh, alright, I’ll be there in a minute.”

She opened the door and then said, “Who is this the police? Are you going to arrest me for complaining?”

Of course not. I’m sorry, this is Jenette, our new security guard. She’s been doing such a fine job for us that I thought she might help us find a permanent solution to the problem of the students climbing over the fence and going into your yard.”

Mrs. Frucheau said, “That’s easy, move the soccer field to the other side of the campus.”

Mr. Wyse laughed. Jenette asked, “It looks like your living all alone, is that right?”

Yes, I’ve got four children, two boys and two girls, and they’ve all moved to the East Coast. They won’t even come to visit me . . . can you imagine that?”

Well, they’re probably very busy with their families and work.”

Each of them has kids of their own and all are working, even the wives. I sit here all day all alone. When I need something or need to go to the doctor, I’ve got to call a cab. It costs a fortune.“

Jenette said, “How much do you spend a week on cabs?”

I make four or five trips . . . that can cost me $150 to $200 a week.”

Hum, I’ve got six daughters one of them is eighteen. She has her own car and has been looking for work, but hasn’t been able to find anything that would fit into her school schedule. If you’d want to hire her, she could work for you in the afternoons, drive you on your errands or to the doctor and do any other work around the house that you might need help with. She could even retrieve the soccer balls for the boys.”

Mrs. Frucheau laughed, “Now that’s a good idea.”

And if my daughter doesn’t work out, I’m sure we could find a student over eighteen years old from the school, a lot of them have their own cars and are looking for work.”

Well, I like that idea. Mr. Wyse, I still think you need to put up a fence, one of those huge, tall fences like they have on golf courses. That would solve this problem once and for all.”

I think your right Mrs. Frucheau. There are several other houses along the back of the soccer field as well. If one of the boys were to get injured or something happen when he was in a yard, it could be a disaster for everyone. I’ll call the school board to find out if we can garner the funds for a fence.”

The noise of constructing a fence won’t bother you will it?”

I can hardly hear. Mr. Wyse, I won’t notice a thing. By the way, whatever happened to that vice principle of yours, a Miss. Snake or was it Snub or Snipe?” Jenette and Mr. Wyse laughed. “The last time she was over here she was so rude that I slammed the door in her face. She never did return.” More laughter.

Mr. Wyse said, “I’m sorry, that’s just her nature. I’m doing my best to replace her.”

On the walk back to the campus Mr. Wyse said, “Mr. Thompson told me all about you losing your husband and raising a large family on your own. You’re a courageous woman.”

It’s quite a challenge, but I love my daughters and it’s worth it. If it weren’t for this job, I wouldn’t be able to make it.”

How about you, Mr. Wyse, do you have a family?”

Yes. I do . . . I have three boys and a girl. They’re all on their own now and married. Two of them are completing their master’s degrees. I’ve also lost my spouse, she was killed last year in an auto accident.”

Oh, I’m so sorry.”

I’ve gotten through the worst of it, but it’s living alone, like Mrs. Frucheau, that’s hard to get used to.”

* * *

In the afternoon when Jenette was stationed outside the girl’s restroom, she got a call from Mr. Thompson, “How’s it going on campus?”

All this month we’ve had student demonstrations over campus shootings and the student body president election. You’ve probably read about them. I’ve had to disperse several groups who were about to get violent. One school candidate wants to take action to prevent shootings, such as educating the community on ways to recognize potential terrorists, and take action on world issues such collecting signatures on petitions to protest “robots from taking future jobs away from students.” The other candidate is trying to maintain the status quo: he focuses on sports, partying and drinking beer. He says, we must have faith that things well get better.

We’ll today we had a special assembly to install the new student body president. This time the candidate who cared and wanted to do something about social issues won. The assembly also feathered a past graduate who builds schools in China. He said, It’s been proven that the best thing we can do to improve economies and human rights in third world countries is to educate girls and young women. He showed us a video documenting his work. Then he asked for volunteers from the pupils when they graduate. The response was excellent.

But the best news during the assemble came as a surprise. While Mr. Wise was introducing the presenter, his secretary came in with an urgent letter. He read it to himself and a big smile coursed across his face. Then he read it to the students. It said, “Do to the severe shock and mental stress of being held at gun point by one of the students, I’ve decided to hand in my resignation and take an early retirement. It was signed, Miss Snipe.” The assembly broke into an enormous round of applause and a standing ovation. Student were dancing in the aisles to music from they’re cell phones. When things quieted down, Mr. Wyse continued to read, “I am sorry to disappoint you all, but because of my condition, I will not be able to attend any retirement ceremonies or parties.” laughter and more wild applause.

Mr. Thompson said, “So it sounds as if the source for most of the campus disruptions will no longer be in place.”

What a blessing for everyone involved.”

I was wondering, Jenette, if you would stop into my office on your way home today. I have an offer that may be of interest to you.”

Certainly, I could arrive at 4 pm.”

Excellent, see you then.”

When she walked into Mr. Thompson’s office, he was just finishing up with two heavily armed young black men who were on security detail for Securidad, one of the companies that sends trucks to business to pick up cash and deliver it to the banks.

Mr. Thompson said to Jenette, “As you know, I worked in law enforce for many years before started this security guard agency. I was police captain in Sacramento, California and then Chicago, Illinois. I’ve also worked in various other organizations, some well known and some clandestine. Most of the security guard requests I get come from my extensive network of contacts in these institutions.

Yesterday, I got a call from the Mayor of Sacramento, whom I used to work with. He tells me, as I already knew because it’s been in the news, that his city has one officer or sheriff after another unnecessarily shooting and injuring or killing innocent black and brown people. He want’s it to stop. He asked me for help and that’s why I called you.”

Me, why not one of your highly trained and educated navy seals or one of the guards with police and management experience?”

The mayor and I believe that the police and military structure and culture are making the problems worse, not better. The rigid discipline entrenches the officers in old patterns, so that they aren’t open to new ways of responding. And a culture of prejudice reins free all the way from the commander down to the rookies. We all know what the locker room banter is like.

You’ve come from a totally different background, art and education. Perhaps that and you’re unique approach is why you have been so successful. What’s your take on the situation with law enforcement.”

First you’ve got to feel for these guys. They’re getting it from all sides and their lives are becoming more and more endangered. In a small mid-western town, all you have to worry about are minor robberies and crimes, teenagers getting drunk and killing someone in a car accident, and saving a cat caught up in a tree. City cops have to deal with all that plus worrying about being shot during a routine traffic stop, dispersing a school or mall shooter, Islamic bombers and terrorists, and citizens out to kill police officers. They’re nervous, jittery. You can understand why they sometimes over react.

On the other hand, many police are motivated by hate and even enjoy inflicting pain, injury, and killing. That seems to be all that they know how to do. Many who have chosen the profession, have done so because they like the sense of power and the freedom to act outside of social norms. That’s why cop shows and movies are so popular. “Joe worker” wants to enjoy those experiences, even if they are vicarious. It’s human nature.

So I think your right about bringing people in from the outside with different backgrounds: writers, musicians, professors, teachers, managers, businessmen, accountants. They would introduce diverse creative solutions. Can you image an accountant, for example, shooting someone without thinking about it? He’d first thoroughly analyze the situation, estimate the wear and tear on his gun and clothing, and consider whether he could afford the extra bullets from his monthly allotment.”

Mr. Thompson said, “He’d probably calculate the chances of getting injured and position himself so far from the action, that there would be no chance he could hit the target. He’d record the incident in one of his spread sheets and then completely forget about it.” They both laughed.

So school will be out in about a month. How about if I send you up to Sacramento for two weeks, lets say in mid July. You could work with these guys and loosen them up and get them to try new and creative solutions to interacting with suspects or criminals.”

Thank you Arthur, for thinking of me. Unfortunately, I could never leave my girls for that long. I’m needed 24/7.”

I know that Jenette. The mayor has given me a huge budget to work with. What if I sent you and your whole family to Sacramento. We[ll rent you a houseboat and I’d hire a care taker to supervise the girls while you were working. This is important, so I’ll pay you four times what you’ve been making at the high school. Your family would have a chance to water ski, swim and enjoy the social life on the river. I’ll extend your stay to one month, so you can relax for a couple of weeks yourself. Come on Jenette, how long has it been since you and your kids have had a vacation?”

Five years. The last one was when Ben and I took the kids to Hawaii to visit my parents. This is becoming an offer that I don’t want to say no to. How about if I’ll talk it over with my family and get back to you at the beginning of the week?”

Great. I want you to go up there and shake things up for the police chief and his officers, just like you do in your art classes and in the trainings you led for my guards. So I’ll see you on Monday at the same time?”

Agreed.”

She took the long route home along Foothill Boulevard, at the base of the mountains, so she could think our Mr. Thompson’s offer.

Chapter IV

Jenette accepted the consulting assignment to retrain the staff of the Sacramento Police Force. The school year ended on a positive note with a new vice principle, with a background as a history teacher and a musician, being introduced at the final assembly in the auditorium. He performed a guitar solo for the students to wild applause.

When she told Mr. Wyse she was leaving for the summer and taking a consulting job in Sacramento, he said, “We’re going to miss you here. You’ve done wonders for the school and the students have come to love you.”

Well, I may return in the fall, depending on what Mr. Thompson has in store for me. I’ll miss you and the students, too. I hope we’ll all see each other again.”

Nancy and Francy went away to camp for two weeks. Karen, who just turned 17 and would be a high school senior the next year, spent everyday at the beach with her new boyfriend, who she was madly in love with. Ellen, who would be beginning college in the fall, took a job, so she could save money for school. She hoped to become a lawyer and was fortunate enough to be able to turn down work in a fast food restaurant for one in her field. She would be a clerk in a law firm. The rest of the girls played with their friends or lazed around the house, recovering from a rigorous year of studying.

Everyone was looking forward to their vacation on the Sacramento River. Jenette took a week off from work, so she could research and prepare her presentations for the Sacramento Police Department. Fortunately for her, Ellen would stay home and be able to take care of the managery of cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits and birds.

After the 4th of July weekend, the five girls, Jenette, plus their guest and family friend Isabel from the Dominican Republic, piled into the old Volvo station wagon with the storage compartment on the roof packed full of clothes, and headed off to their dream month on the Sacramento River.

The house boat was magnificent. It was a white wood frame house in the river town style with ornate wood trim and turned wood posts supporting a wide, broad front porch. It sat on a dark wood deck about a foot above the blue green current. The large, comfortable living room was furnished with turn of the early 1900’s furniture, and a flat screen TV, sound system, and desktop computer, with all the computer games and equipment they wanted. Jenette and the girls were surprised to walk into a modern kitchen, fully stocked with a week’s supply of food.

Four bedrooms graced the house. Jenette had her own room, Karen and Isabel, Nancy and Francy, and Carolyn and Roberta shared. Jenette’s sister Susan, whom Mr. Thompson hired to watch the girls while Jenette was working, would sleep in a den with a couch that folded out into a bed.

The houseboat sat about a hundred yards down stream from the boat harbor and the other houseboats, and about fifty feet from the shore. You could hear the current rippling by and the smell of barbecues from upstream. When they parked along the shore and piled out of the station wagon, Francy said, “How are we going to get back and forth to the house, swim?”

Just then a tall, dark haired man rode up in a large skiff with an outboard motor, and stopped right in front of them, the man said, “Greeting from the Sacramento Police. I’m Captain Weatherby. I was sent to welcome you and deliver your boat. They introduced each other, and then the Captain shook hands with Jenette and each of the girls.

Roberta said, “Mom, that’s just like the boat Joselyn’s family has at the lake. I know how to drive it.”

Great, you can be our chauffeur.”

The Captain said, “Here’s my card. I want to make sure your visit is a pleasant one. Call me with whatever you need: questions, repairs, supplies, anything. I’ll be here in a flash.”

Thank you captain.”

Can I help you move in?”

Oh no, we didn’t bring that much with us, and as you can see, I’ve got a whole troupe with me to do the work.”

He said, “If you don’t mind Roberta, I’d like to show how you how to run this outboard motor. It’s probably different from the one you used on your friend’s boat.”

Sure, thank you.”

* * *

After moving into the house boat and their rooms, the girls jumped right into their vacation. Roberta transported them to the swimming platform where they lounged, sun screen and bikini clad, while engrossed in their cell phones, favorite books and music.

A rousing dinner of broiled tofu and vegetables, with fresh fruit for desert, compliments of Karen, kicked off the evening.

Everyone, including Jenette, moved to the swimming platform for the night activities. Karen and Isabel, who was the lead singer in a popular band in the Dominican Republic, serenaded the troupe with a medley of popular tunes. The live music wafted to the harbor, and soon watercraft of every style were arriving with people searching for evening entertainment. Before too long, the platform and the nearby shore were filled to capacity with new friends and admirers.

* * *

The next day Jenette’s sister Susan arrived. Jenette met with the Chief to discuss her lesson plans and get feedback on what he wanted her to included. Two days later, she began her seminar.

She talked to the officers about trusting their intuition and using creative solutions to prevent crimes and save lives. She spent the majority of the day giving lessons in art accompanied with a variety of popular music, to tap into their creativity. In the afternoon, she had the officers imagine a crime situation, and then write about innovative ways to resolve it. Their stories were quit good and received positive feedback when they were shared with the class. When the session was over, the officers gave Jenette a round of applause.

* * *

The girls fell into a pattern; they’d sunbathe on the swimming platform in the mornings, then return to the houseboat for lunch. In the afternoon they’d engage in assorted activities–swimming, hiking, exploring the shore in the skiff or visiting with their new friends. Almost everyday several of them walked into the local community for sodas, ice cream, or to shop.

Jenette dedicated her training session on Friday to black people. She told about her family’s visit to the Dominican Republic, a country primarily of African-Americans, and then showed the panoply of paintings she had created of scenes of the beaches, the forests, and the local people.

She then traced the history of man, demonstrating how everyone had descended from the African Continent, whether within the last several hundred years, or in the distant past. She said, “Thousands of years ago man migrated north to Europe and the Americas across the Bering Straight in Alaska. Other groups migrated east to Asia, and still others discovered the islands of the world by accident or through planned voyages such as that of Columbus.

She then described her family’s trip to Kenya and other African countries when she and Ben were first married. She said, “There is something about the people of East Africa that made us feel more love and a greater connection with humanity than anywhere else in the world. Although the United States and the West drive the world’s economy, the secrets hidden in African and in other remote countries may just save us from ourselves, unite the people of the world and move us all forward on this planet.

She asked the cadets, “How many of you have passports and have traveled overseas?” Only a few raised their hands. She said, “Only ten percent of Americans ever get a passport. Many of us bury our heads in the sand in our supposed “greatness”. I encourage you to travel abroad; you’ll have incredible adventures and experiences, met wonderful people and broaden your understanding of the world and yourselves.”

she then brought in Karen and Isabel, her family’s friend from the Dominican Republic, who was extremely articulate. They sang a handful of popular tunes to the accompaniment of Karen on the guitar and Isabel on the symbols. Then Isabel, as an outsider, discussed what she noticed about the lives of black people in the America. She spent over half an hour answering questions. On the break the two young women had offers of dates from the officers for every night of the following week.

To end the session, Jenette brought in a black family she had met in Sacramento, to share their experiences of what it was like to interact with the police and fear for their lives every time they did so. At the end of the day, most of the officers had open, enlightened looks on their faces.

* * *

The next day was Saturday and Jenette had the day off. She needed it; she felt as if she had worked harder that week than any other time in her short career in security. The girls made her and Susan breakfast and kept their glasses of lemonade full as they talked and read and lounged in the sun on the deck.

Nancy and Francy had been bugging Roberta to let them ride up and down the river in the boat. Jenette, over hearing the conversation said, “Oh let them take it. They’re old enough to steer the skiff.”

Meanwhile Jenette watched enviously as her daughters paraded in and out of the house with their new boyfriends. She thought, Am I going to be single the rest of my life?

Nancy and Francy left at 10:00 am and said they would return no later than noon. They slowly cruised along the right bank, exploring pathways cut amongst the reeds and cattails, discovering bird’s nests and occasionally seeing deer on the shore.

After an hour Nancy said, “Why don’t we cross the river and then make our way home along the left bank?”

Cool idea. Let’s do it.”

When they traversed the main part of the river where the current was fast and strong, the engine stalled, and Nancy couldn’t restart it. So they drifted down the river faster and faster, doing what little steering they could with the powerless rudder.

When the two girls hadn’t returned by 1:00 pm, Jenette became concerned and called Captain Weatherby for assistance. He immediately sent two officers in a watercraft to search for the missing girls. He calculated the maximum distance they could have traveled in three hours, and had the policemen work their way upstream from there.

Nancy and Francy knew they were in big trouble. Every time they passed another boat or someone on shore, they shouted, “Help, help, we’ve lost control of our vessel. We can’t get the motor started.”

Finally a fourteen year old boy who was taking his father speed boat for a drive, responded to their call. He raced to the center of the river, threw them a line, and towed them to shore.

A few minutes later the two police officers arrived. They thanked the boy for his help, and then towed Nancy and Fancy and the skiff upstream to the houseboat. Francy didn’t miss the opportunity to ask the young man to come visiting at their houseboat.

Jenette was too tired to get angry. She just enjoyed the story and the chance to visit with the officers.

That night Roberta cooked a tasty dinner. They had several guests for the meal, all of them the girl’s newest boyfriends. The boys had talked Jenette into letting them watch an important baseball game during dinner. Thus, the TV was on, competing with the normal flow of conversation. While Jenette was musing, Another night alone without a man, the doorbell rang.

Nancy answered the door. A sixtyish man with greying hair dressed in a sport coat and tie with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other stood in front of her, “Is Jenette available?”

Mom, there’s someone here to see you.”

Jenette walked to the door and then shouted, “Mr. Wyse and she threw her arms around him. “Come on in.”

He said, “I hope you’ll forgive me for using my connection with Mr. Thompson to get your address and location. I’ve missed working with you and wanted to express how much you mean to me.”

There isn’t anyone I’d rather have knocking on my door than you,” and she threw her arms around him again. She led him by the hand into the dining room and introduced him to her daughters, Isabel, Susan, and the guests.

The following day, Mr. Wyse chartered a power boat and took the whole family water skiing.

* * *

Jenette spent the final week of her visit with the Sacramento Police Department responding to calls with the officers in their patrol cars. Her responses were taped and would be used for future training videos.

She encountered the gamut of crimes in the city: bank robberies, break-ins, the kidnapping of a school child, the scene of a murder, and even a mass shooter whom Jenette and a handful of officers disarmed before anyone was hurt.

Then the call came, a call just like the one that had been causing the Sacramento Police and police departments across the country so much trouble. Mrs. McDougal, a local resident, said, “A black man has a gun and he’s trying to break into a home down the street in my neighborhood.”

On the way over to the house Jenette said, “I would never believe a call like that from an average citizen. Most of them have little experience with people of other races and have a stereo-type idea of what they are like and what they will do. I’d first have to have proof. If a black or brown person is in a white neighborhood, they immediately assume the worst. And I’m sorry to say that many people are just plain “racists”. “I’d approach the person, so that if he were a burglar and shot at me, I would be protected. Then I’d start a casual conversation with him.

When they arrived at the house, Jenette did exactly that. She walked down a grassy parkway between two houses, followed by the officer. She saw a black man in the back yard bending over what looked like a barbecue holding a cellphone to his ear.

Jenette stood behind a fence and to the side of a large eucalyptus tree, that she used as shields. She said in a non-threatening voice, “Hello sir, aren’t you going to invite us over for the picnic?”

Of course, the man turned around to see who was talking. He said, “Uh, Oh, now I’m in trouble.”

She said, “I’m sorry to bother you. I’m with the Sacramento Police Department and I’m wondering if you would help me. We got one of those calls, you know, a concerned neighbor said she saw a black man with a gun in his hand about to rob one of the houses in the neighborhood. We get a call like this about once a week and they’re usually bogus. So I’m not going to believe a word of it until I have some evidence.”

The man held up his cellphone and said, “This must be the gun she was talking about. No, I’m here to repair the water heater and this gas barbecue. I work for McKenny and Slone.

Mr. Wilkins . . . Mr. Wilkins, will you come out here and explain to this fine police officer why I’m here.”

A sixtyish man dressed in a white tee shirt and shorts with messed up hair and a beer belly stumbled down the back steps and said, “What’s the problem officer, is it a crime to have your plumbing repaired.”

Of course not. One of your neighbors claimed that there’s a man in the backyard with a gun trying to break-in.”

It must be Mrs. McDougal, she’s the neighborhood busybody. She keeps an eye on everyone and knows everyone’s business except her own.”

That’s exactly who it was.”

The black man said, “I’m Joe, Joe Pearson. Mr. Wilkins, she asked me if I’d invite her over for the fixins you’re doing up.”

Well in that case, officer, I was just making some coffee and cake for Joe and myself. Would you and your partner like to join us?”

Why thank you, I’d appreciate that.”

They sat down at table in the yard, while Mr. Wilkins served refreshments and then he joined them. They discussed baseball, the weather, and the kinds of prejudices that Joe said he encountered when working in white neighborhoods. Jenette told how she was brought in as a consultant to help the police department safely handle these kind of incidents.

Joe said, “I’m glad that they are finally doing something about these problems.”

* * *

Needless to say, Jenette and Mr. Wyse spent most of their free time together for the rest of their stay on the river. When they returned home, they were madly in love and saw each other almost everyday.

Jenette’s seminar for the Sacramento Police Department was a stunning success. Unwanted shootings declined over the next year to almost zero. The mayor of Sacramento even offered ten free one-week overseas vacations to the officers to encourage them to visit and understand people of other cultures.

Mr. Thompson continued to send Jenette to give her seminar to troubled police departments across the United States. She became quite well-known and respected in the law enforcement community.

Ellen went on to law school and earned her degree and Karen’s band became more and more popular. Isabel continued to date Spencer, one of the officers she met while giving her presentation. He visited her in the Dominican Republic, and when she returned to the US the following year, they were married. The day of Isabel and Spenser’s wedding, Jenette and Mr. Wyse announced their engagement and set a date for their own matrimony.

  1. SECURITY GUARD MOM

Jenette really didn’t want to return to work after being a house wife for eighteen years. She had held out as long as possible, but with six girls, ages seven to eighteen, and the life insurance money running out, she had to.

She had been looking for work for over three months. She applied for secretarial jobs, but they wanted someone young, pretty, and up with all the latest software programs. She had also applied for sales jobs because she had been an Avon Representative for many years, but still there were no offers. She’d contacted the employment agencies, those organizations that sent temporary help to companies, but times were tough and they had more than enough applicants.

The only offer she had was from Mr. Thompson, her next door neighbor, as a security guard for his agency. He contracted with businesses and companies to provide their in-house security force when they didn’t have their own or need extra help.

She thought, “Imagine me being a security guard . . . would I really be able to hit someone over the head with a baton. She thought back to her career aspirations in high school and college. She had studied to be an artist. She graduated from The Boston School of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree. Then spent two more years earning a teaching credential. She dreamed of taking the advertising industry by storm with innovative designs and ideas . . . but then she met Ben and had gotten caught up in a whirlwind of romance and love. Six months later they were married. After another year they were living in Hawaii and had their first child.

Ben encouraged her art work–he set up a studio in a spare bedroom and Jenette painted in oils and acrylics. She captured the dreamy, ineffable landscapes of Hawaii and painted portraits of the native people. She was quite good . . . she won prestigious art awards and had her work displayed in several galleries.

Her work earned the family a significant second income–enough to keep her in spending money, most of which went for more art supplies and stylishly clothes. But as they had more and more girls, art was relegated to a back burner and family life became a priority. And then dad got sick . . . and then Ben. It was those damn cigarettes–Ben wouldn’t give them up. Well, she’d have to go to work for Mr. Thompson.”

Mr. Thompson said that some of his clients requested women security guards because they were better at communicating with customers and that’s why he wanted to hire her. Well, she needed the money and she would just go through with it.

In the security guard training she looked so funny, an over-weight fifty-two year old blond women in a black uniform sitting next to big, bulky twenty to thirty year old black and brown men with dread locks and buzz cuts. There was only one other woman, a Latino lady from South Central Los Angeles.

She was required to buy her own uniforms, too. She took the list the training instructor gave her to the local police and security guard supply store and bought each and every item on the list. She bought two sets of black pants and shirts, heavy duty steel toe black shiny boots, a baton, a black aluminum flash light, a Smith and Western Model 317 22 caliber pistol, and several cans of mace. Again, she asked herself if she could really shoot someone.” She thought, No, there must be another way.

She held her own in the hand-to-hand combat with the other trainees. She learned to use police disarming self-defense moves, wield a baton, and use mace. She surprised herself by enjoying the target practice. Her pistol was light-weight, easy to fire, and she was an exceptional shot. But it was one thing to hit a cardboard figure with a baton, mace, or a bullet, and something else altogether to do it to a real person.

For her first assignment, Mr. Thompson sent Jenette to Tracy’s, a very distinguished department store in a nearby city. She thought, “This won’t be bad at all; there aren’t many criminals in Hollister. I’ll be able to spend most of the day reading and talking to the customers.”

She was assigned to guard the entrance on the women’s clothing floor. She thought, How lucky, I’ll keep up with all the latest fashions and use my employee discount to buy things for the girls.

She had the mid-day to 9:00 pm shift. That was just what she wanted, it gave her time to take the girls to school and run errands before going to work. Ellen, her oldest daughter, would be home at 3:30 pm to take care of the younger ones until 9:30 when she got home.

The first day was uneventful. Jenette just watched the customers go in and shop in the store. There were no robberies or anyone that looked like a criminal.

Besides being extremely observant because she was an artist, Jenette also had psychic abilities. She seemed to know when things would happen. For example, she just knew last January 25th that something bad was going to happen to her youngest, Carolyn. She knew someone was going to try to kidnap her and when and where it would happen. She was waiting for the man at his car when he dragged Carolyn over and tried to force her inside. She put her hand in her pocket and told the man she had a gun (which of course she didn’t} and that she would shoot (which of course she couldn’t), so the man let her daughter go.

The same thing happened when she saw a lady walk out of Tracy’s looking somewhat bulkier than she did when she came in. Jenette told herself, I know she’s stealing, I’m going to keep an eye out for her.

When the lady returned a few days later wearing the same faded brown knit suit, Jenette followed her through the store. She watched her pick up three colorful blouses and then walk into the ladies dressing room. When she came out, she was wearing the same suit, but she didn’t have the three blouses. Jenette said to the lady when she walked by, “I think you’ll look much nicer in those three blouses than you do in that old brown suit jacket you always wear.”

The lady said with a big smile, “Well, thank you. Now here are the price tags, I’m just going to wear them home under these clothes because they are so much easier to carry that way. I’ll pay for them on my way out.”

Good.” When they lady walked out of the store, Jenette asked her all about her family, her children, her husband, and where she lived. The lady described everything in a calm voice, but when she got to her husband, she burst into tears. Her husband had just died. She said that she was looking for work to support her two children. Jenette could empathize, of course, because she had also lost her husband. She thought it would help both of them to talk about it and perhaps she could get the woman a job with Mr. Thompson’s agency. So she invited the lady to lunch for the following week.

The next day the store was in an uproar when Jenette arrived. There had been a robbery on the morning shift and a guard had been shot on his way to his armored car after he had picked up cash from the management office. The criminals made off with $12,000 of the store’s money. When one of the thieves ran out the front door, the Thompson Agency guard tried to stop him, but he was shot in the leg from behind by one of the accomplices. Both guards were in the hospital but would recover. Mr. Thompson sent two additional security personnel to the store in case the robbers returned.

Besides the robbery, there wasn’t a lot of criminal activity at Tracy’s. Now and then she saw someone stuff a blouse into her purse, or a young teenager put on a spaghetti strap evening dress under her street clothes and not pay for it. She said to herself, I don’t have the heart to do anything about it. Wouldn’t it be terrible if a teenager were arrested and sent to juvenile hall. It could ruin the rest of her life: she’d have a felony record and would certainly be corrupted by the hardened criminals in the jail. It could even lead to a life of crime. And all the girl was probably doing was trying out shoplifting for the thrill of it. Wouldn’t it be horrible if that happened to one of my own daughters. The twins Nancy and Francy are just at that age, too. And she thought, A little loss was good for the store. The management expected 5 to 10% “shrinkage”. They could use it as a write off on their taxes. And they may even get reimbursed for it by their insurance company.

From time to time Jenette mused about the robbers who stole the $12,000. She had a funny feeling that they would return. She decided to be ready. She borrowed her second to the oldest daughter’s PA system (Karen was the lead singer in a band) and some firecrackers from Nancy and Francy that were left over from the 4th of July. She hid speakers on either side of the main isle and set up the microphone near her post at the exit.

The next day she saw a very attractive teenager, no older than fourteen, walk into the store, pick up a sexy evening dress, and then walk into the dressing room. When she walked out, she wasn’t carrying the dress. Jenette went over to her and said, “I bet you’ll look just magnificent in that evening dress.”

The girl stammered for several seconds and then said, “Oh, I, I . . . forgot to take it off. You know . . . you know, I want to wear it for my boyfriend. He says I’m pretty in dresses.”

I bet you are. You’re an attractive girl. Now, in my free time, I’m an artist. I’ve painted all my girls. I’d like to paint you wearing that dress.”

You would? Oh, Thank you.”

Now, go back into the dressing room and come out in the dress. I’d like to see how you look. The teenager did as she was asked. “Whow, look at you. I’ve got six daughters and I’m always tailoring their clothes for them. If we take that dress in a little in the waist and the bust, I think it will be just right. Let’s see. Do you have eleven dollars?”

Yes.”

Good, that will be enough to put the dress on layaway. Can you come up with five dollars a week?”

Sure, my parents give me a twenty dollar allowance.”

Excellent. Go back into the dressing room, take the dress off and put your regular clothes on. Take the dress to the front register and ask them to put it on layaway. Here’s my card. Give me a call when you’ve paid it off. I’ll paint your picture and you’ll be able to keep it.”

Oh, thank you, miss. I won’t forget this.”

* * *

A week later she arrived at work early and was standing outside the women’s entrance, staring at the parking lot and drinking her coffee latte. She saw an ominous looking silver van cruise across the parking lot and park near the street exit. She thought, “I bet those are those robbers back for another cash run. She called the police and then watched two men get out of the van and shop the women’s blouses in the area of the main store isle.

About ten minutes later, the “Guardera” armored car pulled up and two guards walked into the manager’s office. When they came out carrying bags of money, the two men from the silver van came up behind them with guns and hit them on their heads. They picked up the money and began running towards the side entrance. Jenette spoke through Karen’s loud speakers in a bold deep voice and said, “All right, we’ve got you surrounded. Throw down your guns and put your hands over your heads. Then there were several loud explosions (fireworks). She said, “Lay down on the floor with your hands behind your backs,” accompanied by several more firecrackers. The robbers did as they were told. Jenette handcuffed both of them. A few minutes later, the police arrived and took the robbers away.

Jenette was given approbations and a raise from Mr. Thompson and the Tracy “Metal of Honor” from the store manager.

A few weeks later, Mr. Thompson called Jenette into his office and congratulated her again on capturing the robbers at Tracy’s. He told her the he had another assignment for her—a high school. He said the school was a real challenge: there were gangs, shootings, drugs, graffiti was a constant problem, and there was lots of vandalism. He told Jenette that if she took the job, he’d double her salary. She loved children and schools and could certainly use the extra money, so she said agreed.

Chapter Two

She was assigned to work with Miss Snipe, the Vice Principal. When she arrived, she was told to wait in the lobby. She heard yelling and screaming coming from the VP’s office. Then she was kept waiting for over an hour. Jenette was tempted to leave, but since she was being paid for her time, she decided to wait.

When Miss Snipe walked up to her, Jenette introduced herself and smiled. The VP said in a stern voice, “Oh, you’re the one from Thompson’s agency, well come into my office; I want to tell you about the rules of our school and what is expected of security guards.”

She proceeded to lecture Jenette for fifteen minutes. Right away, she had second thoughts about staying, especially since she was told the last three security guards quit after less than a week on the job. Jenette decided to finish out the first day, anyway, before talking to Mr. Thompson about another assignment.

In the morning she was stationed at the side entrance near the electronic scanner to check the students for weapons and illegal substances. During the day she was assigned to stand outside the entrance to the girls bathroom. On her first day, she search the students who set off the electronic scanner upon entering the school: she found four knives, 2 pistols, a bludgeon, and a baggie of opoids. In the afternoon when she arrived at the girls bathroom, there was a cat fight in progress between two girl . . . pulling hair, biting, tearing clothes, yelling, and screaming.

One of the reasons Jenette had done so well in hand-to-hand combat against the other security guards in Mr. Thompson’s training was because she had studied and earned a brown belt in karate when she lived in Hawaii. So when she got to the fight, she jumped right in front of the girl throwing the punches. She used the force of the girls blows to flip her onto her back, and then she handcuffed her. The crowd of students cheered. She turned to face the second girl and stood in a karate stance, but the girl backed up and ran off.

Jenette returned to the girl on the floor and helped her onto her feet. She asked her about the fight. While in tears, she said, “She told my boyfriend I was sleeping around and a slut, so he’d break up with me. I love him and have always been a loyal girlfriend.”

Jenette was sympathetic and said, “I can understand why you were upset. Now, if I take the handcuffs off, will you go back to class and forget the other girl?’

Yes, Miss.?”

You can call me Jenette. And what’s your name?”

I’m Serena, miss.”

Now let me show you something. If you throw a punch like this to the solar plexus,” and she demonstrated it (her hand flat and her knuckles curled under) “your opponent will be incapacitated for several minutes. Now you try it.”

The girl stood in the karate stance and with all her “might” threw the punch at Jenette’s stomach, which she easily deflected. The crowd cheered.

Jenette said, “You’ve got it. Now go on to your class.”

The crowd broke up. A few minutes later, Miss Snipe came over. She said in an inscrutable voice, “Where are the two girls who were fighting?”

They’ve gone back to class . They said they’d forget the disagreement if I let them go.”

Miss. Snipe proceeded to lecture Jenette for five minutes on punishing wrong doers. She told her that the next time it happened, to turn the fighters in to her. Fighting on campus could result in severe disciplinary action such as suspensions and even notification to the police. She said it was important to punish wrong-doers to set an example for the other students. She then complained to Jenette about her wrinkled uniform and told her her badge was to low on her chest.

I’m sorry; I had a minor emergency this morning because one of my daughters cut her hand on a broken widow (that should have been fixed) and had to be rushed to the hospital emergency room. I didn’t have time to do my ironing before coming to the school.”

In the middle of the afternoon, a tall darked haired man with greying at the temples, dressed in a pinned-stripped shirt, tie, and black slacks walked over to Jenette and introduced himself. He was Mr. Wyse, the school principle. He was friendly and complimented her on her success in breaking up the fight that morning. He said he heard about it through a student. He jokingly asked her if she’d like to teach an after-hours self-defense class. He told her that he and Mr. Thompson were college buddies–that’s why Thompson’s agency provided the security for the school. When he left, Jenette thought, “Now I like that man. I wouldn’t mind working for him at all.”

On the way home, though, she stopped at the agency’s office to tell Mr. Thompson her reservations about Miss. Snipe. She said, “That lady is the reason there are so many problems on campus. She said Miss Snipe wears Prada, an allusion to the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” and the horrible manager the lady was who ran the fashion magazine. Mr. Thompson laughed and asked Jenette to keep him updated on Miss. Snipe and activity around the school. He said he’d have a heart to heart talk with Mr. Wyse about the VP.

Jenette got a desperation call from her daughter Carolyn, seven years of age. She had locked herself out of the house. She was crying and waiting near the front door. Jenette told her she’d be home within fifteen minutes. She told Carolyn to take the two dogs Rufus and Claudius for a walk. By the time she got back, she would be home.

Jenette said to herself, Oh, that poor girl, she’s having such a tough time right now; it must be the adjustment to her new teacher and her older sisters who are constantly harassing her.

The next day went about the same as the first – she confiscated three knives, a pistol and a rifle with a bump stock at the side entrance. On her first break, while running an errand to the principle’s office, she passed four boys with spray paint cans “tagging” the walls near the boys bathroom. They were using bright colorful spray paint in unique shades of green, red, yellow, and pale and dark blue. They were painting some not so great pictures of boys and girls dancing together to a band accompanied by stylized writing. Jenette thought, That looks a lot better than those plain puke green walls, anyway. She walked up to the boys and said, “Now I like that, those are really fine colors.”

Oh, it’s Kung Fu . . . that’s the name the students gave you after you broke up the fight yesterday. I’m Tobias.”

Jenette laughed and said, “Can I borrow those cans a minute?”

The boys gave them to to her. She went over to the wall and completed the dance scene. She drew a poignant image of two dancers twirling around the floor with a crowd clapping and a band playing in the background.

All three of the boys said, “Whow! That’s fantastic, Kung Fu.” Tobias said, “Will you teach us to paint like that?”

Sure, but not on these walls. It’s against the rules and will get you trouble.”

We did it just to make Miss. Snipe mad. She gets mad and yells at us no matter what we do.”

I know. Can I keep those cans? I’m going to ask Mr. Wyse if we can do a mural on one of the school walls. I’ll teach you how to paint with spray cans and other media such as acrylics and oils.”

She knew Miss Snipe would be along any minute so she went directly to Mr. Wyse and told him about the graffiti, the dance scene, and asked him if she could help the students paint a mural on one of the walls. Mr. Wyse laughed and said, “Sure.” He walked with Jenette over to take a look at the dance scene. He said, “Those walls look better than they ever have. We’ll leave that painting up there.”

You know, Mr. Wyse, the boys said they did the graffiti just to make Miss Snipe mad. They say she’s always on their case and won’t leave them alone.”

Mr. Wyse smiled and said, “Yes, she’s a real monster. The school board sent her here when the last vice principle Mr. Goodsight died. I’ve been trying to get her transferred ever since.”

She laughed and then went to her post outside the girls bathroom.

No sooner had she arrived, than Miss. Snipe walked up. She said, “Where are the four boys that did the Graffiti?”

Jenette handed her the spray paint cans and said that she let them go.

Miss Snipe proceeded to lecture her for fifteen minutes again about punishing wrong-doers. She said, “I could have suspended those boys and sent them to juvenile hall for vandalism. Then Miss Snipe pointed to Jenette’s black boots and said, “That sure is a pathetic job of polishing. Report to me first thing in the morning. I want to see a spit shine on those shoes. I want to be able to see my reflection in them.”

Yes mam.” And she thought, If she wants to see her image in my shoes, I’ll paint a picture of Medusa on them.

Miss Snipe said, “OK, you can go. I’ll call Mr. Georges, the janitor, to repaint those walls.”

You’d better talk to Mr. Wyse, I think he has other plans.”

Miss. Snipe stormed off.

* * *

Jenette was standing at her post outside the girls restroom. Several teenagers walked in and out. She got a call on her cell phone, “Carolyn, what’s the matter, honey?”

Mommy, I’m sick, I don’t feel good. Will you come home and fix my lunch?”

Your sister Roberta will be home at 1:00 pm. Tell her what’s wrong and she’ll give you something to take for it.

OK, mommy.”

Jenette heard a girl in the restroom talking on her cellphone. She waited for a few minutes and then walked inside. She heard, “It was dreamy. He took me on the bus. First, we went to Dennys.”

What did you have?”

I had a hamburger and fries and a strawberry malt. He had a beef steak and a malt. Then we went to the movies. We saw Beach Party III. Well, we didn’t see much of the movie, we, you know, the whole time.

Whoops, here comes someone. Talk to you later.”

A minute later, she sheepishly walked out of the stall and right into Jenette.

It’s Kung Fu. I was hoping to have a chance to meet you.”

You can call me Jenette.”

Well, I was hoping you’d teach me some of those karate moves . . . it’s the boys . . . they won’t keep their hands off of me especially when we go out on dates.”

Oh, I know, I’ve got six daughters. I know all about it.” Her phone rang, She whispered to the girl, “It’s Carolyn my youngest; she’s home sick again today.”

Hi, Carolyn, what’s the problem?”

Mommy, I heard a funny noise in the back yard . . . it sounds like someone climbed over the fence.”

Call Mr. Crumpet, our neighbor. He’s home most of the time. Gotta go, honey.”

Thanks mommy.”

Jenette said to the girl, “By the way, What’s your name?”

I’m Lucinda. I’m in the eleventh grade. This is my geometry class and I hate it. I hate the teacher Mr. Rotunda. too”

I understand what you mean. My girls have all hated math when they first started it. They had to study hard on the weekends just to pass the class. Now, Ellen and Karen are majoring in math and the oldest got straight “A’s”.

Maybe they can tutor me.”

By this time, several girls were listening to the conversation in the restroom. “Now, let me show you a karate move. Stand with your feet apart in a comfortable position. Good. This is what you do when someone tries to grab you. Try grabbing me like the boys do.”

Jenette caught her hand, pulled her forward by the arm, and then twisted it behind her back. She pulled it up just a little, so Lucinda could feel how it hurt.”

See, you’ve got them by the “balls” so to speak. It’s a real turn-off to the guys and it can really hurt.”

Can I try it?”

Sure. Lucinda stood with her legs apart while Jenette tried to grab her. Jenette let her catch her arm, pulled her forward, and twisted her around.”

Excellent. That’s just how it’s done.”

Thank you. Well, I’m going back to class now. I hope I see you again, Kung Fu.”

Chapter Three

The rest of the day was uneventful until she got home. One of Jenette’s and the family’s weaknesses was organization. There was junk everywhere scattered around the house. In the small TV room there were clothes, books, chips, cookies and plates all over the floor and under and behind the furniture. On the computer keyboard there were underpants, snacks, and “blue ice”. In the bathroom there were clothes, towels and make-up all over the floor, sink, and the back of the commode.

The first problem was there were too many people and animals in a very small house. The six girls shared three bedrooms and Jenette had her own room (Ben and hers) and Grandpa had his own bedroom and bath. There were also the two German short hairs shepherds, Rufus and Claudius, who spent most of their time indoors. That’s not to mention three parrots in cages in the house and two guinea pigs and four rabbits in the backyard.

The second problems was Jenette, and therefore her family, never wanted to throw anything out or put it back where they found it. Every storage space including all three closets, the garage, and several outdoor plastic storage cabinets were full-to-overflowing with house hold items. When anyone opened the door, they had to run out of the way to avoid being hit on the head by falling junk.

And, of course, the third problem, which Jenette could certainly be forgiven for, was that she was the sole parent and “bread winner” for six girls, a Grandpa, two dogs, three birds, two guinea pigs, and four rabbits. She just didn’t have the time to clean things out, put them back where they belonged, or train the girls to be organized.

Well, anyway, when she got home she couldn’t get into the TV room because there were too many things blocking the door. She knocked several times but with the TV on and the stereo going full blast in the kitchen, Carolyn couldn’t hear her. So she and Nancy and Francy forced the door open and found Carolyn rolled up in several blankets with half-eaten plates of food, cans of soda, and glasses of liquids lying on the floor nearby. She was with two of her friend watching cartoons.

Carolyn, your friends will have to go home. You don’t want them to get sick, do you?”

No mommy, but I feel better now.”

Girls, go on home. You can visit on the weekend.”

* * *

Things were quiet the following Monday on campus. Jenette only confiscated two guns, two knives, a baggie of uppers and a cudgel at the side entrance. On the morning break, she strolled through the playground and around the snack bar where most of the students congregated. She greeted a few by name, complimenting the girls on their dresses and answering questions.

She came to two boys in a heated argument. At first it was just a loud disagreement, but then they threw down their books and notebooks and looked like they were going to fight. She listened to their conversation for a few minutes. They talked about a girl. They were both going out with Renee Emerson and were arguing about who’s girlfriend she was. Jeffry Clinton said that since she was wearing his Tiger’s jacket (he was a football player and the Tigers was the name of the team), she was his girlfriend. Fred Medini, said she was his girlfriend because she wore his tennis letter on her sweater.

Jenette cut in, “Now I have six girls of my own and I’d say you both have good reasons to believe her to be your girlfriend. There’s one way we can settle this argument and that’s to ask Miss. Emerson, herself, who she’s going out with.

Jeff said, “Why not. That would settle it.”

Fred reluctantly said, “OK, if you want to ask her, I’ll go along with it.”

She said, “This might hurt your feelings guys if she says it’s not you. Can you handle that?”

They both hesitated and said. “Yes.”

Someone brought Renee over, she’d already been told about the argument.

When Jenette asked her who her boyfriend was, she said, “My boyfriend is a sophomore in college. Fred and Jeff are just friends.”

Fred and Jeff looked at each other, shook there heads, and walked off together.

* * *

Jenette was standing at her post after the lunch break. Every half-hour she’d go into the restroom and flush out the young women who were hanging out and talking to their friends or on cell phones. Just after she came out of the restroom on one of her rounds, she heard screaming and shouting coming from a nearby classroom. She ran in the direction of the disturbance, and saw students pouring out of the room. She asked a few of them what the problem was, but they kept running.

When she got to the entrance and looked in, standing tall and intrepid on the teacher’s desk, was a six-foot long monster that look like the star of a Japanese movie. It was a common iguana, indigenous to Latin America, with brown mottled snake-like skin, a dark fin with spikes on it on the top of its back and sharp protrusions on its tail. Its eyes were positioned on the side of its head and it had a deathly look as it flicked is long bluish tongue in and out. Two students were holding green leaves in their hands and slowly approaching it. She asked what is it?”

Ira Romonov said, “It’s my pet Iguana. I’m sorry, I brought it to school in my giant beach towel to show my friends, but it escaped when Mrs. Patrickson gave us the writing assignment.”

Jenette broke out into a fit of laughing. “You guys can take care of this yourselves. I’ll tell the students and teacher to come back in fifteen minutes.”

Of course, the teacher went to Miss. Snipe who was just about to call the police, SPCA, FBI, and other clandestine organizations when Jenette arrived in her office. She told her that the Iguana belonged to one of the students and that the boys would have it under control within a few minutes. Jenette said that calling the authorities would just create more problems for everyone.

Miss. Snipe said, “Nonsense. I could suspended the boy who was responsible for this and send him to “Juvie”. Wrong-doers must be punished to set an example for the other students.”

Fortunately, Mr. Wyse walked up during this exchange of words and told Miss. Snipe that he would take care of calling the authorities. He never did.

* * *

The art teacher Mrs. Engle had heard about Jenette’s encounter with the boys doing graffiti and had seen her dance mural on the school wall. She invited Jenette to her class as a guest speaker. Jenette taught the students figure drawing. She described the essence of the art form with lots of demonstrations using multi-colored chalk on paper on an easel. Then she asked the class to do their own sketches of a partner. The response was excellent, so Mrs Engle invited Jenette to teach a section of her class every Thursday. Jenette and Mrs. Engle along with the class planned to do the new mural that Mr. Wise had approved.

The art class was the second to last of the school day. So when it was over, she took up her post outside the girl’s restroom. When she arrived, Lucinda slowly walked up to her. She said, “Thanks for the karate lesson. The moves worked. After I did them on Joe, the guy I’ve been going out with, he stopped all of his groping and grabbing.”

Good, I’m glad to hear it.”

Anyways,” Lucinda continued, “Rachael is in there . . . she needs someone to talk to. She’s pregnant. I think she might do something desperate . . . like cut her wrists. She’s got razor blades.”

Thanks, Lucinda,” and then Jenette walked into the restroom. She found Rachael sitting on the floor in the far corner, crying. The sleeves on her blouse were rolled up and she held a razor blade in her right hand poised above her wrist.

Are your Rachael?”

How did you know my name?”

Lucinda said you might need someone to talk to . . . is she your friend?”

Sort of,” while continuing to cry.

It’s my parents . . . they’ll kill me if they find out I’m pregnant. They’re Catholic and real conservative. They’ve been lecturing me since I was a little girl about abstinence and waiting until I was married.” Sobs. Jenette put her arm around Rachael. She reached down to Rachael’s right hand and took the razor blade.

They always said that if any of their children got pregnant out of wedlock, they’d disown them.”

Jenette said, “There are lots of options and you don’t have to do anything about it right now.”

Todd and I just got going one night . . . we didn’t mean to do anything . . . but it just happened.”

It happens to thousands of girls everyday. I’ve got six girls of my own, I know. They’re been pretty good at keeping the boys off. But I’ll tell you about my second oldest Karen.”

Lucinda walked in and said, “Hi,” and then sat down on the other side of Rachael and held her hand.

She’d been going out with Rob regularly . . . but last year in March . . . she started acting funny towards everybody . . . sarcastic and combative with her sisters. I knew something was wrong. One day, her older sister Ellen and I were sitting at the kitchen table and Karen walked in. She was really ragging at Roberta, so Roberta just came out with it. She said, “Mom, Karen’s been like this for over a month now . . . and it’s because she’s upset . . . she’s pregnant.”

Karen broke down into tears. “She expected me to scold her, but, of course, I didn’t.”

I said, “Each of us, boys and girls has this sexual drive in us. Some are able to control it . . . but most of us find ways of satisfying it without the consequences of pregnancy. But some of us aren’t able to avoid getting pregnant and that’s OK. I said, “I really like Rob and still do . . . and I think he’s a good match for you. The two of you are going to need to decide what you want to do. Whether you want to keep the child, give it up for adoption, or even have an abortion. You’ve got some time. I suggest you talk to Dr. Franklin, our family doctor, and look into other resources to explore your options.”

Rachael began crying and then said, “My parents would never be reasonable like that. They’d want to put my boyfriend in jail for having sex with a minor. They’d severely punish me. They’d send me to a convent. They always threatened it.”

Jenette said, “Well, I understand. You need to accept your parents for the way they are and love them. Is there anyone else who might be understanding and willing to talk with you about the situation and help you?”

Todd’s parents are really cool. I can talk to them about anything. Maybe they’d help us.”

Good.”

Rachael continued to sniffle, but stopped crying.

Are you going to be alright now?’

Yea, I think so. I’ll talk to Todd, and together we’ll go see his parents.”

Jenette got up and returned to her post. About fifteen minutes later, Rachael walked out with Lucinda and smiled at Jenette as she passed.

* * *

The next day at school was a little quieter. She did her usual searches at the entrance and then took up her post at the girls restroom. At 10:17 am, Rebecca, Mr. Wyse’s secretary, came running up to her in an agitated manor. She said, “There’s a student in room 102B with a gun. He’s threatening the history teacher Mr. Ramirez. Miss Snipe is in there talking with him right now. Mr. Wyse asked if you might help defuse the situation. He said not to get yourself hurt. The boy is Michael Washington. He’s been a good student and his mother’s an elementary school teacher. This is not like him. Something phenomenal must have happened.

Jenette said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

When she got to the room, she looked through the little Plexiglas window in the door. She saw Michael standing at the front of the room pointing the gun at Mr. Ramirez and Miss Snipe lying on the floor unconscious. She knocked on the door and said in a gentle voice, “It’s Kung Fu, can I come in?”

Michael said, “Yes.”

She sat at a student desk about half-way up to the front of the room. She recognized two girls that she’d met, Lucinda, the teenager from the restroom, and Serena, the girl in the fight.

She said, “Mr. Ramirez, “Are you alright?”

He said, “Yes.”

What seems to be the problem?”

He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “I don’t know.”

Jenette began talking to Michael, “Michael, you remind me of my nephew Joseph and the time he ran away. He’s about a year older than you. He was an outstanding student in school. Well, this happened last year when he was about your age. He wanted to be the quarterback on the football team. He worked hard all summer and then on the weekends during the school year on his passing game. But you know, he comes from a family of “geeks” (laughter) with no athletic ability at all. Well, he didn’t make quarterback, in fact, he didn’t even make the first string. All his hopes were dashed. He wanted to earn an athletic scholarship because my sister’s family is poor like me and it was the best way to pay for college. He was also in love with a cheerleader, he thought that being the captain of the football team was the best way to earn her heart. So when it all fell through, he ran away. We finally got a call from him after he’d had a rough time of it: sleeping in the cold and rain, going without food, being robbed and roughed-up by people on the street. My sister’s husband flew across the country and brought him home.

When he got back, he resumed his outstanding scholastic standing and earned a scholarship to a major university based on his academic achievement. And he found a girl he liked even more that the cheerleader.”

Michael’s hand began quivering . . . and he slowly lowered the gun. She said, “I don’t want to pry Michael, but what seems to be the problem. I don’t want to see you get into trouble. You’ve been a good student and you’re from a good family. Mr. Wyse tells me your mother is a teacher.”

Michael said, “Yes.”

And you love your parents, don’t you?”

Yes.”

What happened?”

He began to cry. “It all started with Miss Snipe. We were goofing around in the school yard by the cafeteria one day and I knocked over a trash can. Well, she saw it and has made my life miserable every since. She’s told my teachers I’m a discipline problem and a slow learner. The teachers are all picking on me now. Mr. Ramirez calls me the “dunce.”

Lucinda said, “It’s true. He has the same schedule I do. Last term he had the respect of all the teachers, but this term they all pick on him.”

Is that true Mr. Ramirez?”

I’m afraid it is. I’m so sorry. I should have believed his transcripts and his performance rather than Miss Snipe. Michael, I’m sorry. I’ll talk to Mr. Wyse and we’ll straighten this out for you.”

Will that be OK, Michael?”

Yes.”

Jenette said, “Good. Now you can give me the gun and we’ll go talk to Mr. Wyse. He’s a fair man. He’ll understand.”

OK.” He turned the gun around, and slowly gave it to her, handle first.

Come on Michael. Class, you’re dismissed for the rest of the period. And Mr. Ramirez, you might want to take a few hours break or the rest of the day off. Will someone call an ambulance for Miss Snipe?”

Michael and Jenette spent several hours in Mr. Wyse’s office. Mr. Wyse was understanding and said he would not suspend Michael if he promised not to do anything like that again. Because he was the school principle and was required to follow the rules and the law, he recorded the incident in Michael’s record and called in the police. They spent another hour asking Micheal about the gun and where he got it and then confiscated it. With Mr. Wyse and Jenette’s help, they decided not to arrest him. The incident would be on his police record, but would be erased when he became eighteen.

Jenette didn’t even have time to return to her post outside the girls restroom. She went straight to her car to go home. She drove an old Volvo station wagon with faded blue paint. It had scratches and dents on the doors and sides and the bumpers were bent out of shape in many places. There was a streamline white storage container on the roof that looked like an upside down canoe with an assortment of fishing poles, building materials, skim and ocean boards tied on, under, and around it. Like her house, there were clothes, books, toys, food, and miscellaneous other items strewn all over the seats, dashboard, and floor. And the backseat was crammed full of plastic bags filled with “I-don’t-know-what” that couldn’t fit anywhere else.

When she got to her car, there was a crowd of students waiting for her. They congratulated her on saving Mr. Ramirez, who was a popular teacher. Of course, Miss. Snipe was another story. They asked her all sorts of questions about what happened to Michael and then about her life and family. A half hour later, she drove on home.

* * *

The next day, Mr. Wyse came up to Jenette when she was checking students as they walked into the school. He said, You’ve been doing an outstanding job for us. The students like you and everyday you are defusing significant problems. You know, our school has the reputation of being one of the worst discipline challenges in the district. You’re helping to change that image.”
“Thank you Mr. Wyse. I just love the students, the school environment and I enjoy working with you. My only difficulty here is Miss. Snipe.”

Well, your not alone. I hope you’ll be patient for a while longer . . . because I’m working on that problem and may have a solution very soon.

I was wondering if you’d help me with yet another unfortunate situation. One of our school neighbors, Mrs. Frucheau, has called to complain about students sneaking into her yard to retrieve soccer balls. You see, she lives in one of the houses right at the end of the field.”

I think I’ve seen her. Is she that old lady that sits on her porch in a wheel chair watching the traffic go by?”

Yes, she’s crippled and very old. Fortunately, she can’t hear very well so the sports activities on the field don’t bother her.”

Oh, I feel so sorry for her . . . she’s always wearing that drab old blue dress . . . and I bet she lives all alone.”

Yes, and she calls me about once a week to complain about someone climbing over the fence into her yard to retrieve a ball. Her rose bushes are right on the other side . . . so the perpetrator usually crushes a few of them while knocking off the flowers.”

Oh, that’s terrible. Those roses are probably all she has to live for.”

Yes, I agree. I’m on my way over there right now and I wonder if you’d come along and help me find a permanent solution to this dilemma.”

Sure, Mr. Wyse.”

They walked out of the side entrance and down the sidewalk to Mrs. Frucheau’s house. When they knocked on the door, they heard a gruff old voice, “What do you want? Go away, I’m busy.”

Mrs. Frucheau, it’s Mr. Wyse from the school. I came to apologize for the students going into your yard.”

In a gruff voice she said, “Oh, alright, I’ll be there in a minute.”

She opened the door and then said, “Who is this the police? Are you going to arrest me for complaining?”

Of course not. I’m sorry, this is Jenette, our new security guard. She’s been doing such a fine job for us that I thought she might help us find a permanent solution to the problem of the students climbing over the fence and going into your yard.”

Mrs. Frucheau said, “That’s easy, move the soccer field to the other side of the campus.”

Mr. Wyse laughed. Jenette asked, “It looks like your living all alone, is that right?”

Yes, I’ve got four children, two boys and two girls, and they’ve all moved to the East Coast. They won’t even come to visit me . . . can you imagine that?”

Well, they’re probably very busy with their families and work.”

Each of them has kids of their own and all are working, even the wives. I sit here all day all alone. When I need something or need to go to the doctor, I’ve got to call a cab. It costs a fortune.“

Jenette said, “How much do you spend a week on cabs?”

I make four or five trips . . . that can cost me $150 to $200 a week.”

Hum, I’ve got six daughters one of them is eighteen. She has her own car and has been looking for work, but hasn’t been able to find anything that would fit into her school schedule. If you’d want to hire her, she could work for you in the afternoons, drive you on your errands or to the doctor and do any other work around the house that you might need help with. She could even retrieve the soccer balls for the boys.”

Mrs. Frucheau laughed, “Now that’s a good idea.”

And if my daughter doesn’t work out, I’m sure we could find a student over eighteen years old from the school, a lot of them have their own cars and are looking for work.”

Well, I like that idea. Mr. Wyse, I still think you need to put up a fence, one of those huge, tall fences like they have on golf courses. That would solve this problem once and for all.”

I think your right Mrs. Frucheau. There are several other houses along the back of the soccer field as well. If one of the boys were to get injured or something happen when he was in a yard, it could be a disaster for everyone. I’ll call the school board to find out if we can garner the funds for a fence.”

The noise of constructing a fence won’t bother you will it?”

I can hardly hear. Mr. Wyse, I won’t notice a thing. By the way, whatever happened to that vice principle of yours, a Miss. Snake or was it Snub or Snipe?” Jenette and Mr. Wyse laughed. “The last time she was over here she was so rude that I slammed the door in her face. She never did return.” More laughter.

Mr. Wyse said, “I’m sorry, that’s just her nature. I’m doing my best to replace her.”

On the walk back to the campus Mr. Wyse said, “Mr. Thompson told me all about you losing your husband and raising a large family on your own. You’re a courageous woman.”

It’s quite a challenge, but I love my daughters and it’s worth it. If it weren’t for this job, I wouldn’t be able to make it.”

How about you, Mr. Wyse, do you have a family?”

Yes. I do . . . I have three boys and a girl. They’re all on their own now and married. Two of them are completing their master’s degrees. I’ve also lost my spouse, she was killed last year in an auto accident.”

Oh, I’m so sorry.”

I’ve gotten through the worst of it, but it’s living alone, like Mrs. Frucheau, that’s hard to get used to.”

* * *

In the afternoon when Jenette was stationed outside the girl’s restroom, she got a call from Mr. Thompson, “How’s it going on campus?”

All this month we’ve had student demonstrations over campus shootings and the student body president election. You’ve probably read about them. I’ve had to disperse several groups who were about to get violent. One school candidate wants to take action to prevent shootings, such as educating the community on ways to recognize potential terrorists, and take action on world issues such collecting signatures on petitions to protest “robots from taking future jobs away from students.” The other candidate is trying to maintain the status quo: he focuses on sports, partying and drinking beer. He says, we must have faith that things well get better.

We’ll today we had a special assembly to install the new student body president. This time the candidate who cared and wanted to do something about social issues won. The assembly also feathered a past graduate who builds schools in China. He said, It’s been proven that the best thing we can do to improve economies and human rights in third world countries is to educate girls and young women. He showed us a video documenting his work. Then he asked for volunteers from the pupils when they graduate. The response was excellent.

But the best news during the assemble came as a surprise. While Mr. Wise was introducing the presenter, his secretary came in with an urgent letter. He read it to himself and a big smile coursed across his face. Then he read it to the students. It said, “Do to the severe shock and mental stress of being held at gun point by one of the students, I’ve decided to hand in my resignation and take an early retirement. It was signed, Miss Snipe.” The assembly broke into an enormous round of applause and a standing ovation. Student were dancing in the aisles to music from they’re cell phones. When things quieted down, Mr. Wyse continued to read, “I am sorry to disappoint you all, but because of my condition, I will not be able to attend any retirement ceremonies or parties.” laughter and more wild applause.

Mr. Thompson said, “So it sounds as if the source for most of the campus disruptions will no longer be in place.”

What a blessing for everyone involved.”

I was wondering, Jenette, if you would stop into my office on your way home today. I have an offer that may be of interest to you.”

Certainly, I could arrive at 4 pm.”

Excellent, see you then.”

When she walked into Mr. Thompson’s office, he was just finishing up with two heavily armed young black men who were on security detail for Securidad, one of the companies that sends trucks to business to pick up cash and deliver it to the banks.

Mr. Thompson said to Jenette, “As you know, I worked in law enforce for many years before started this security guard agency. I was police captain in Sacramento, California and then Chicago, Illinois. I’ve also worked in various other organizations, some well known and some clandestine. Most of the security guard requests I get come from my extensive network of contacts in these institutions.

Yesterday, I got a call from the Mayor of Sacramento, whom I used to work with. He tells me, as I already knew because it’s been in the news, that his city has one officer or sheriff after another unnecessarily shooting and injuring or killing innocent black and brown people. He want’s it to stop. He asked me for help and that’s why I called you.”

Me, why not one of your highly trained and educated navy seals or one of the guards with police and management experience?”

The mayor and I believe that the police and military structure and culture are making the problems worse, not better. The rigid discipline entrenches the officers in old patterns, so that they aren’t open to new ways of responding. And a culture of prejudice reins free all the way from the commander down to the rookies. We all know what the locker room banter is like.

You’ve come from a totally different background, art and education. Perhaps that and you’re unique approach is why you have been so successful. What’s your take on the situation with law enforcement.”

First you’ve got to feel for these guys. They’re getting it from all sides and their lives are becoming more and more endangered. In a small mid-western town, all you have to worry about are minor robberies and crimes, teenagers getting drunk and killing someone in a car accident, and saving a cat caught up in a tree. City cops have to deal with all that plus worrying about being shot during a routine traffic stop, dispersing a school or mall shooter, Islamic bombers and terrorists, and citizens out to kill police officers. They’re nervous, jittery. You can understand why they sometimes over react.

On the other hand, many police are motivated by hate and even enjoy inflicting pain, injury, and killing. That seems to be all that they know how to do. Many who have chosen the profession, have done so because they like the sense of power and the freedom to act outside of social norms. That’s why cop shows and movies are so popular. “Joe worker” wants to enjoy those experiences, even if they are vicarious. It’s human nature.

So I think your right about bringing people in from the outside with different backgrounds: writers, musicians, professors, teachers, managers, businessmen, accountants. They would introduce diverse creative solutions. Can you image an accountant, for example, shooting someone without thinking about it? He’d first thoroughly analyze the situation, estimate the wear and tear on his gun and clothing, and consider whether he could afford the extra bullets from his monthly allotment.”

Mr. Thompson said, “He’d probably calculate the chances of getting injured and position himself so far from the action, that there would be no chance he could hit the target. He’d record the incident in one of his spread sheets and then completely forget about it.” They both laughed.

So school will be out in about a month. How about if I send you up to Sacramento for two weeks, lets say in mid July. You could work with these guys and loosen them up and get them to try new and creative solutions to interacting with suspects or criminals.”

Thank you Arthur, for thinking of me. Unfortunately, I could never leave my girls for that long. I’m needed 24/7.”

I know that Jenette. The mayor has given me a huge budget to work with. What if I sent you and your whole family to Sacramento. We[ll rent you a houseboat and I’d hire a care taker to supervise the girls while you were working. This is important, so I’ll pay you four times what you’ve been making at the high school. Your family would have a chance to water ski, swim and enjoy the social life on the river. I’ll extend your stay to one month, so you can relax for a couple of weeks yourself. Come on Jenette, how long has it been since you and your kids have had a vacation?”

Five years. The last one was when Ben and I took the kids to Hawaii to visit my parents. This is becoming an offer that I don’t want to say no to. How about if I’ll talk it over with my family and get back to you at the beginning of the week?”

Great. I want you to go up there and shake things up for the police chief and his officers, just like you do in your art classes and in the trainings you led for my guards. So I’ll see you on Monday at the same time?”

Agreed.”

She took the long route home along Foothill Boulevard, at the base of the mountains, so she could think our Mr. Thompson’s offer.

Chapter IV

Jenette accepted the consulting assignment to retrain the staff of the Sacramento Police Force. The school year ended on a positive note with a new vice principle, with a background as a history teacher and a musician, being introduced at the final assembly in the auditorium. He performed a guitar solo for the students to wild applause.

When she told Mr. Wyse she was leaving for the summer and taking a consulting job in Sacramento, he said, “We’re going to miss you here. You’ve done wonders for the school and the students have come to love you.”

Well, I may return in the fall, depending on what Mr. Thompson has in store for me. I’ll miss you and the students, too. I hope we’ll all see each other again.”

Nancy and Francy went away to camp for two weeks. Karen, who just turned 17 and would be a high school senior the next year, spent everyday at the beach with her new boyfriend, who she was madly in love with. Ellen, who would be beginning college in the fall, took a job, so she could save money for school. She hoped to become a lawyer and was fortunate enough to be able to turn down work in a fast food restaurant for one in her field. She would be a clerk in a law firm. The rest of the girls played with their friends or lazed around the house, recovering from a rigorous year of studying.

Everyone was looking forward to their vacation on the Sacramento River. Jenette took a week off from work, so she could research and prepare her presentations for the Sacramento Police Department. Fortunately for her, Ellen would stay home and be able to take care of the managery of cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits and birds.

After the 4th of July weekend, the five girls, Jenette, plus their guest and family friend Isabel from the Dominican Republic, piled into the old Volvo station wagon with the storage compartment on the roof packed full of clothes, and headed off to their dream month on the Sacramento River.

The house boat was magnificent. It was a white wood frame house in the river town style with ornate wood trim and turned wood posts supporting a wide, broad front porch. It sat on a dark wood deck about a foot above the blue green current. The large, comfortable living room was furnished with turn of the early 1900’s furniture, and a flat screen TV, sound system, and desktop computer, with all the computer games and equipment they wanted. Jenette and the girls were surprised to walk into a modern kitchen, fully stocked with a week’s supply of food.

Four bedrooms graced the house. Jenette had her own room, Karen and Isabel, Nancy and Francy, and Carolyn and Roberta shared. Jenette’s sister Susan, whom Mr. Thompson hired to watch the girls while Jenette was working, would sleep in a den with a couch that folded out into a bed.

The houseboat sat about a hundred yards down stream from the boat harbor and the other houseboats, and about fifty feet from the shore. You could hear the current rippling by and the smell of barbecues from upstream. When they parked along the shore and piled out of the station wagon, Francy said, “How are we going to get back and forth to the house, swim?”

Just then a tall, dark haired man rode up in a large skiff with an outboard motor, and stopped right in front of them, the man said, “Greeting from the Sacramento Police. I’m Captain Weatherby. I was sent to welcome you and deliver your boat. They introduced each other, and then the Captain shook hands with Jenette and each of the girls.

Roberta said, “Mom, that’s just like the boat Joselyn’s family has at the lake. I know how to drive it.”

Great, you can be our chauffeur.”

The Captain said, “Here’s my card. I want to make sure your visit is a pleasant one. Call me with whatever you need: questions, repairs, supplies, anything. I’ll be here in a flash.”

Thank you captain.”

Can I help you move in?”

Oh no, we didn’t bring that much with us, and as you can see, I’ve got a whole troupe with me to do the work.”

He said, “If you don’t mind Roberta, I’d like to show how you how to run this outboard motor. It’s probably different from the one you used on your friend’s boat.”

Sure, thank you.”

* * *

After moving into the house boat and their rooms, the girls jumped right into their vacation. Roberta transported them to the swimming platform where they lounged, sun screen and bikini clad, while engrossed in their cell phones, favorite books and music.

A rousing dinner of broiled tofu and vegetables, with fresh fruit for desert, compliments of Karen, kicked off the evening.

Everyone, including Jenette, moved to the swimming platform for the night activities. Karen and Isabel, who was the lead singer in a popular band in the Dominican Republic, serenaded the troupe with a medley of popular tunes. The live music wafted to the harbor, and soon watercraft of every style were arriving with people searching for evening entertainment. Before too long, the platform and the nearby shore were filled to capacity with new friends and admirers.

* * *

The next day Jenette’s sister Susan arrived. Jenette met with the Chief to discuss her lesson plans and get feedback on what he wanted her to included. Two days later, she began her seminar.

She talked to the officers about trusting their intuition and using creative solutions to prevent crimes and save lives. She spent the majority of the day giving lessons in art accompanied with a variety of popular music, to tap into their creativity. In the afternoon, she had the officers imagine a crime situation, and then write about innovative ways to resolve it. Their stories were quit good and received positive feedback when they were shared with the class. When the session was over, the officers gave Jenette a round of applause.

* * *

The girls fell into a pattern; they’d sunbathe on the swimming platform in the mornings, then return to the houseboat for lunch. In the afternoon they’d engage in assorted activities–swimming, hiking, exploring the shore in the skiff or visiting with their new friends. Almost everyday several of them walked into the local community for sodas, ice cream, or to shop.

Jenette dedicated her training session on Friday to black people. She told about her family’s visit to the Dominican Republic, a country primarily of African-Americans, and then showed the panoply of paintings she had created of scenes of the beaches, the forests, and the local people.

She then traced the history of man, demonstrating how everyone had descended from the African Continent, whether within the last several hundred years, or in the distant past. She said, “Thousands of years ago man migrated north to Europe and the Americas across the Bering Straight in Alaska. Other groups migrated east to Asia, and still others discovered the islands of the world by accident or through planned voyages such as that of Columbus.

She then described her family’s trip to Kenya and other African countries when she and Ben were first married. She said, “There is something about the people of East Africa that made us feel more love and a greater connection with humanity than anywhere else in the world. Although the United States and the West drive the world’s economy, the secrets hidden in African and in other remote countries may just save us from ourselves, unite the people of the world and move us all forward on this planet.

She asked the cadets, “How many of you have passports and have traveled overseas?” Only a few raised their hands. She said, “Only ten percent of Americans ever get a passport. Many of us bury our heads in the sand in our supposed “greatness”. I encourage you to travel abroad; you’ll have incredible adventures and experiences, met wonderful people and broaden your understanding of the world and yourselves.”

she then brought in Karen and Isabel, her family’s friend from the Dominican Republic, who was extremely articulate. They sang a handful of popular tunes to the accompaniment of Karen on the guitar and Isabel on the symbols. Then Isabel, as an outsider, discussed what she noticed about the lives of black people in the America. She spent over half an hour answering questions. On the break the two young women had offers of dates from the officers for every night of the following week.

To end the session, Jenette brought in a black family she had met in Sacramento, to share their experiences of what it was like to interact with the police and fear for their lives every time they did so. At the end of the day, most of the officers had open, enlightened looks on their faces.

* * *

The next day was Saturday and Jenette had the day off. She needed it; she felt as if she had worked harder that week than any other time in her short career in security. The girls made her and Susan breakfast and kept their glasses of lemonade full as they talked and read and lounged in the sun on the deck.

Nancy and Francy had been bugging Roberta to let them ride up and down the river in the boat. Jenette, over hearing the conversation said, “Oh let them take it. They’re old enough to steer the skiff.”

Meanwhile Jenette watched enviously as her daughters paraded in and out of the house with their new boyfriends. She thought, Am I going to be single the rest of my life?

Nancy and Francy left at 10:00 am and said they would return no later than noon. They slowly cruised along the right bank, exploring pathways cut amongst the reeds and cattails, discovering bird’s nests and occasionally seeing deer on the shore.

After an hour Nancy said, “Why don’t we cross the river and then make our way home along the left bank?”

Cool idea. Let’s do it.”

When they traversed the main part of the river where the current was fast and strong, the engine stalled, and Nancy couldn’t restart it. So they drifted down the river faster and faster, doing what little steering they could with the powerless rudder.

When the two girls hadn’t returned by 1:00 pm, Jenette became concerned and called Captain Weatherby for assistance. He immediately sent two officers in a watercraft to search for the missing girls. He calculated the maximum distance they could have traveled in three hours, and had the policemen work their way upstream from there.

Nancy and Francy knew they were in big trouble. Every time they passed another boat or someone on shore, they shouted, “Help, help, we’ve lost control of our vessel. We can’t get the motor started.”

Finally a fourteen year old boy who was taking his father speed boat for a drive, responded to their call. He raced to the center of the river, threw them a line, and towed them to shore.

A few minutes later the two police officers arrived. They thanked the boy for his help, and then towed Nancy and Fancy and the skiff upstream to the houseboat. Francy didn’t miss the opportunity to ask the young man to come visiting at their houseboat.

Jenette was too tired to get angry. She just enjoyed the story and the chance to visit with the officers.

That night Roberta cooked a tasty dinner. They had several guests for the meal, all of them the girl’s newest boyfriends. The boys had talked Jenette into letting them watch an important baseball game during dinner. Thus, the TV was on, competing with the normal flow of conversation. While Jenette was musing, Another night alone without a man, the doorbell rang.

Nancy answered the door. A sixtyish man with greying hair dressed in a sport coat and tie with a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other stood in front of her, “Is Jenette available?”

Mom, there’s someone here to see you.”

Jenette walked to the door and then shouted, “Mr. Wyse and she threw her arms around him. “Come on in.”

He said, “I hope you’ll forgive me for using my connection with Mr. Thompson to get your address and location. I’ve missed working with you and wanted to express how much you mean to me.”

There isn’t anyone I’d rather have knocking on my door than you,” and she threw her arms around him again. She led him by the hand into the dining room and introduced him to her daughters, Isabel, Susan, and the guests.

The following day, Mr. Wyse chartered a power boat and took the whole family water skiing.

* * *

Jenette spent the final week of her visit with the Sacramento Police Department responding to calls with the officers in their patrol cars. Her responses were taped and would be used for future training videos.

She encountered the gamut of crimes in the city: bank robberies, break-ins, the kidnapping of a school child, the scene of a murder, and even a mass shooter whom Jenette and a handful of officers disarmed before anyone was hurt.

Then the call came, a call just like the one that had been causing the Sacramento Police and police departments across the country so much trouble. Mrs. McDougal, a local resident, said, “A black man has a gun and he’s trying to break into a home down the street in my neighborhood.”

On the way over to the house Jenette said, “I would never believe a call like that from an average citizen. Most of them have little experience with people of other races and have a stereo-type idea of what they are like and what they will do. I’d first have to have proof. If a black or brown person is in a white neighborhood, they immediately assume the worst. And I’m sorry to say that many people are just plain “racists”. “I’d approach the person, so that if he were a burglar and shot at me, I would be protected. Then I’d start a casual conversation with him.

When they arrived at the house, Jenette did exactly that. She walked down a grassy parkway between two houses, followed by the officer. She saw a black man in the back yard bending over what looked like a barbecue holding a cellphone to his ear.

Jenette stood behind a fence and to the side of a large eucalyptus tree, that she used as shields. She said in a non-threatening voice, “Hello sir, aren’t you going to invite us over for the picnic?”

Of course, the man turned around to see who was talking. He said, “Uh, Oh, now I’m in trouble.”

She said, “I’m sorry to bother you. I’m with the Sacramento Police Department and I’m wondering if you would help me. We got one of those calls, you know, a concerned neighbor said she saw a black man with a gun in his hand about to rob one of the houses in the neighborhood. We get a call like this about once a week and they’re usually bogus. So I’m not going to believe a word of it until I have some evidence.”

The man held up his cellphone and said, “This must be the gun she was talking about. No, I’m here to repair the water heater and this gas barbecue. I work for McKenny and Slone.

Mr. Wilkins . . . Mr. Wilkins, will you come out here and explain to this fine police officer why I’m here.”

A sixtyish man dressed in a white tee shirt and shorts with messed up hair and a beer belly stumbled down the back steps and said, “What’s the problem officer, is it a crime to have your plumbing repaired.”

Of course not. One of your neighbors claimed that there’s a man in the backyard with a gun trying to break-in.”

It must be Mrs. McDougal, she’s the neighborhood busybody. She keeps an eye on everyone and knows everyone’s business except her own.”

That’s exactly who it was.”

The black man said, “I’m Joe, Joe Pearson. Mr. Wilkins, she asked me if I’d invite her over for the fixins you’re doing up.”

Well in that case, officer, I was just making some coffee and cake for Joe and myself. Would you and your partner like to join us?”

Why thank you, I’d appreciate that.”

They sat down at table in the yard, while Mr. Wilkins served refreshments and then he joined them. They discussed baseball, the weather, and the kinds of prejudices that Joe said he encountered when working in white neighborhoods. Jenette told how she was brought in as a consultant to help the police department safely handle these kind of incidents.

Joe said, “I’m glad that they are finally doing something about these problems.”

* * *

Needless to say, Jenette and Mr. Wyse spent most of their free time together for the rest of their stay on the river. When they returned home, they were madly in love and saw each other almost everyday.

Jenette’s seminar for the Sacramento Police Department was a stunning success. Unwanted shootings declined over the next year to almost zero. The mayor of Sacramento even offered ten free one-week overseas vacations to the officers to encourage them to visit and understand people of other cultures.

Mr. Thompson continued to send Jenette to give her seminar to troubled police departments across the United States. She became quite well-known and respected in the law enforcement community.

Ellen went on to law school and earned her degree and Karen’s band became more and more popular. Isabel continued to date Spencer, one of the officers she met while giving her presentation. He visited her in the Dominican Republic, and when she returned to the US the following year, they were married. The day of Isabel and Spenser’s wedding, Jenette and Mr. Wyse announced their engagement and set a date for their own matrimony.

Security Guard Mom is a short story from Ken Wasil’s most recent book The Car of the Future and Other Stories.  Ken Wasil has written The Quick Style Guide for Writing for the Web and English Usage, A Great Escape: Short Stores for Travelers, Mr. Thoreau Goes to Boston, Rivers of Words, African Safari Bootcamp for Women. He began his writing career through penning proposals, product descriptions, and advertisements while a sales and marketing representative of computer products and services and for a major film industry magazine.  He also wrote resumes and marketing literature while the branch manager of a writing company.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara.  You can view his profile and books at http://www.amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com  

The Flood

Cover The Flood JPG 100

Here’s a treat for you: find out what it’s like to be caught in a Mississippi River flood!.  Melissa with her dog Patches, pet racoon Fingers, and Soar the Hawk are separated from their family and forced to survive on their own.

We live in a house and farm on the banks of the Mississippi River. I being the youngest and a teenage girl, have a small room in the attic with slanted walls and dormer windows while my two older brothers live on the second floor in their own rooms, and my parents and grandma have the two rooms off the living room and kitchen on the ground floor.

We aren’t rich or even well off, but my dad makes a decent income from the farm and the accounting business he runs in the nearby town of Riverdale. Mom stays home to raise us and works around the farm, occasionally watching the neighbor’s kids to bring in extra money.

Herman, the middle child, has a mechanical bent–he’s always tinkering with bicycles, farm equipment, short wave radios, computers, and cell phones. Next year he’s moving away to the East Coast to study engineering. And Rich, my oldest brother, loves animals and is attending college to be a veterinarian. Rich raises Labrador retrievers which he sells to the other farmers for hunting dogs. And he raises piglets, calves, baby chicks, and anything else he can talk Dad out of or any animals he can beg, borrow, or trade from the neighbors. And when he goes into the woods, he’ll often bring home some injured or abandoned animal to nurse back to health like a skunk, raccoon, ground hog, fox, squirrel, or eagle.

And like everything else around here, I get the hand-me-downs. I wear my brother’s discarded flannel shirts and jeans, my cousin Jennies school clothes and shoes, and the Pederson’s girl’s discards (our next door neighbors who have four girls).

Two years ago, Rich gave me the scrawniest yellow lab that he thought would never survive. I named him “Patches” because I had to patch him together to keep him alive. Now he’s strong, healthy and two-years old. He sleeps with me at night and goes every where I go . . . well, except to school. Rich also gave me the red tail hawk he saved that now lives in the barn . . . and used to sleep in my room until Mom said he was too messy. And he gave me Fingers, the precocious raccoon he saved after its mother was killed by a car. I’m seventeen and Rich is twenty, but I love animals, and think I might want to become a vet, too.

Right now I’m sitting in the living room in the rocking chair next to the fireplace. I’m wearing my bathrobe and big fluffy slippers doing my homework. Patches is laying on the floor with his head on my feet and Fingers is in my lap. Grandma is snoring in the rocker on the other side of the fireplace with the black-cap parrot sitting on her left shoulder. Her doctor said that black-caps have the ability to heal and could help her with her arthritis.

Ma woke me from my reverie, “Melissa, how do you like Mrs. Weaverton now, your twelfth grade English teacher?”

Oh, She’s alright . . . I got an “A” on my essay this week. But she won’t let me forget that I have to live up to my two older brothers, Rich and Herman.”

Rich who was helping clean up the dinner dishes stuck his head out of the kitchen door and said, “She likes animals and extra credit . . . when you read Shakespeare[s “As You Like It”, take Fingers in to share with the class. She’ll love him.”

Thanks.”

Well, I guess it’s hand-me-down teachers, too. Ma, who was reading and had our calico cat Peaches sitting in her lap said, “Your as smart as they are and have the same parents they do.”

Dad, who was laying on the couch on the other side of the room with his feet on Paws and Jaws, the two yellow labs that sired most of Rich’s litters, said, “when I was in high school, I had Mister Houseman . . . the strictest teacher you ever saw. He’d walk up and down the isles with a wooden ruler in his hand. If you gave the wrong answer or weren’t paying attention, he’d slap that ruler down on your desk with a loud bang! But I got a good education from that school.”

Ma said, “Looks like a big storm coming this week. Lots of rain. You be sure to take an umbrella and wear your rain coat to school the next few days.”

Yes, Ma.”

That night it started raining. Fingers slept in my bed and Patches, who usually starts the night in the wicker basket by the door, joined me after I went to sleep. In the morning, I walked to school in the rain. I left my dormer window open six inches so fingers could back down the roof, climb onto the huge elm tree that over-hung our house, and then climb down onto the ground and go wherever he wanted to go like hunting in the woods. Patches had “house rights” and could spend the day inside, if the weather was bad, or use the doggy door to come and go as he pleased.

Those two animals with Soar, my hawk, often ranged far and wide when I’m in school. One farmer, on the other side of Riverdale over ten miles away, swore that he saw Patches walking down the road by his house one day. When I don’t have school, all four of us head up along the river through the woods for a day of fishing and hunting, or out in the row boat to explore the small islands in the Mississippi. When I walked home from school, Patches and Fingers are usually waiting for me at the edge of our farm near the main highway.

It rained all that day and night. The next morning, it was still raining, so Pa drove me to school. When I got home that night, Fingers and Patches were asleep on my bed, so I joined them for a nap.

At dinner time, I snuck Fingers a piece of chicken, my ear of corn, and several sugar cubes because he probably stayed inside all day and didn’t hunt like he did in good weather. Ma and Pa fed the dogs, but they said the other animals were on their own.

By Sunday night, it had been raining for five days and nights and dad was worried that the Mississippi would rise and over-flow the palisades built along the shore and flood our field. That had happened about once every five years. The rich Mississippi water, turbid with silt and minerals, replenished the soil, but often wrecked havoc with our roads and farm buildings. Both Fingers and Patches spent all those rainy days close to home and at night curled up by my side on the bed.

The next day, just before Pa drove me to school, we heard on the news that the board of education told all the children to stay home because of possible flooding. It was one of the happiest mornings for me in a long time. I wore my pajamas and robe until noon and read with Fingers and Patches nearby.

But at two o’clock, dad drove up with bad news–the river had breached the bulwarks and was flooding the farm. He told us to pack what we needed and to be ready to leaved at a moment’s notice.

Then the news got worse . . . the road and farms down stream from us were already flooded, so we were stranded!

The water poured across our fields in to the barn and other out-buildings and was a foot deep in the house. Dad and Rich released the animals: horses, pigs, chickens, dogs, and all the others creatures to let them fend for themselves. They wanted to let loose Patches and Fingers, but I said, “No.”

So we loaded Ma, Pa, Rich, and Grandma, and the supplies into the motor boat and Patches, Fingers, and me in the row boat. Dad connected the two with a rope. Since school was out, Herman had gone to stay with a friend in another town for a few days so he was out of danger.

By the time we left the farm, the water had risen to the door knob on the front door. Dad used the motor and tiller to steers us across our property and down what he thought was the main road. As we were leaving the farm, Soar the hawk flew over us several times and then finally landed in the row boat with Fingers, Patches, and me.

I know Ma and Pa were devastated by the flood . . . we might make it to safety . . . but the farm would be a total loss, and we’d have to start over. The Mississippi River is one of the most powerful rivers in the world with 50 million gallons a minute flowing from its mouth near New Orleans into the Caribbean Sea. It’s capable of destroying whole cities and large sections of the country.

A hundred and fifty years ago before modern engineers built concrete channels and reinforced steel walls, a town which was happily located on its shores and doing a booming river commerce, could wake up in the morning and find itself a half-mile away from the river. The town might go broke as a result. The Mississippi just decided to dig a new channel. And that same town which was paying taxes in Missouri may now have to get reappraised and pay its taxes to Kansas. That’s not so common today in the cities, but it but can still happen in the rural areas like ours.

Dad steered us down the main highway past the Pederson’s and Grimwald’s farms. We could see cows, horses, and a whole managery of animals swimming towards dry land. Dad said the flood had already covered over a mile swath on either side of the river, so all those animals and our family had a long way to go to reach dry land.

Just past the lower side of the Grimwald’s farm, the road curved closer to the river and when dad followed it, we ran right into a fast current from another break in the river wall. Instead of heading down the river with Dad’s bow first and then his stern, and then my bow and my stern, we were going down sideways with my row boat juxtaposed with his. I tried pulling us around with the oars and Dad tried using the engine, but the current was too swift.

That’s when we got tangled in a tree sticking above the current. Dad’s boat was on one side and mine on the other and the current moving to fast to pull my boat around to the other side. So Dad decided to cut the line.

He said, “Melissa, use your oars to steer over to the calm water to the right and I’ll tie you on again. But the current was getting stronger. His boat went gliding over to the right with the help of the motor, but mine went spinning off to the left. We got pulled into the center of the Mississippi, itself, through another breach in the wall that drained back into the river.

Patches, Fingers, and Soar were still with me. Patches was standing in the bow and barking at Dad’s boat, Fingers was churling and sitting near my feet, and Soar, the only one staying calm and enjoying the ride, was sitting on the gunnel near the stern. The currents were fierce on the Mississippi and the waves rough and choppy. It was all I could do to keep us from tipping over. And if we went over, three of the four of us would be goners! We bounced over four foot waves and then the back-wash swamped the boat, so I’d have to drop one of the oars and bail with a gallon bucket while trying to steer with other oar.

I could see us wizzing past farms, woods, and small islands, but most of the land on either side of the river was flooded as far as I could see. Occasionally, we’d pass debris floating in the river: broken loose boats, logs, small buildings, roofs from houses, ice chests, and a hundred other things that had washed off of farms.

Fortunately, the ice chest Ma had packed with sandwiches and food for our family, was in our boat, so at least we had something to eat. We all gobbled up chicken sandwiches and then Fingers and I shared some blue berries. I thought it was only a matter of time before we capsized, so I began looking for an island I could steer for. If we landed on some land, we could wait until the flood subsided and row to shore, or wait for a passing boat to spot us.

Just as the darkness was closing in, I saw an obstruction in the river and headed for it. At the last second, I saw it was a small wooded island, but was too late to avoid the rocky promontory.

* * *

The boat crashed against the rocks and Melissa went flying and landed head first onto a large boulder. She ended up half-in-and-half-out of the water. Patches, Fingers, and Soar made it onto shore. After looking around for several minutes, Patches returned to the unconscious Melissa. He licked her face and wounds and nudged her with his muzzle, but she didn’t move. He then locked onto her collar with his teeth and jaws and dragged her onto land. When she got stuck, Fingers came over to help. Now she rested unconscious on a sandy cove while Patches licked her bleeding elbows and forehead.

Fingers and Patches returned for the life-saving ice chest with its supply of food, and brought several jackets and a blanket. Patches laid the blanket on Melissa’s chest and then “sort of unfolded it” with his teeth so it covered most of her body.

The island was a good sized one–it was one-hundred yards long with sandy beaches and was covered with grassy meadows and a forest of pine. In the morning it didn’t take Patches and Fingers long to make themselves at home. Soar found the island an ideal launching place for fishing expeditions on the Mississippi. Fingers prowled the shore and was able to catch minnows and small fish, while Patches, not a hunter by nature, surveyed the island from stem to stern. In many places, the trees grew right over the water, so Fingers could climb out onto a limb, reach down into the current, and snare a fish or other tasty delight. By lunch time, Soar and Fingers had partaken of a selection of fish and had eaten ravenously while Patches looked on ruefully and occasionally let out a whine. When Fingers and Soar had eaten their fill and Fingers had rolled over and gone to sleep, Patches crept forward on his front paws and ate the scraps.

Still Melissa had not woken. Occasionally, Patches walked over to her and licked her face and hands and nudged her, but she remained unconscious. Another two days past and still she did not wake. Soar caught extra fish and left them for Patches. The dog had been able to catch a squirrel and a rabbit on his own. The game on the island was sparse, but easy to catch because it was unafraid of predators because it was isolated from the mainland.

By the third day, the flood began to recede and Patches decided it was time to go for help. There was a log floating in a protected cove on which Fingers lay sunning himself. Patches jumped into the water behind it and began dog paddling towards shore, using his snout to push the log in front of him. Patches paddled desperately to drive the log to shore while Soar circled overhead. As it near the river bank, the log rolled and Fingers was flung into the fast moving current. Both animals swam through the muddy rapids to safety.

Patches took the lead and the troupe headed south through water and mud ravaged fields and forests. At night, Fingers and Patches curled up together in a hallow filled with leaves while Soar stood guard in a nearby tree. The section of forest through which Patches, Fingers, and Soar were traveling, was sparcely populated and was primarily swampy land, open fields, and dense forests. There were a only a few dirt roads and primitive farms scattered throughout. So they made their way overland . . . through areas with low-lying bushes and vines with stickers and thorns that got caught in the fur and tore at the face, eyes, and ears.

Although Patches had a good sense of direction and was heading generally south along the river, it seemed to Fingers that at times they were traveling in circles and had traversed the same dry stream bed or rough terrain again and again. One morning, Patches caught a rabbit and after sharing it with Fingers, they lay down to nap. A badger, a large rodent with fierce jaws, teeth, and claws, snuck up on the troupe to steal the carcass. Soar screamed a warning from a nearby tree and dove at the badger which awoke Patches and Fingers. Patches barked furiously at the animal, but it was mostly bravado. Fingers, led the fight . . . he flew at the badger and caught the side of its face and its ear in his jaws and tore at it with his claws. The badger shook and shook its head until he finally threw off Fingers who went flying with a part of the badger’s ear still in his teeth. The badger retreated into the woods and Fingers lay dazed against a tree. He had injured his paw and was unable to get up. Patches licked and washed Fingers injuries and then went in search of food for his fallen friend. He returned with a squirrel and nudged Fingers who slowly opened his eyes. The racoon languidly ate the reward.

A while later, Fingers hobbled to his feet to signal to Patches that he was ready to move on but now with a pronounced limp. That afternoon, Patches caught the redolent aroma of civilization . . . he smelled the smoke of a fire, people, and most importantly, food. When they reached the back of the farmhouse, Patches scratched on the door . . . and then let out several whines and loud barks. A small boy came to the door and looked out. He said, “Ma, it’s a dog. He’s hungry. Can we feed him?”

The boy brought Patches inside and served him a splended meal. Fingers, not knowing that he could be an unwelcomed house guest, or was an untraditional pet, moved to the door and “churled.” The boy came out again and let the raccoon inside and fed him.

The mother noticed its limp and after testing Fingers affability, picked him up and examined his paw. It had been torn and cut in the fight with the badger. She used a needle and heavy thread to repair the injury. Fingers, knowing he was being helped by the lady, did not made a sound or try to squirm or wiggle away even though he was in pain.

The boy said, “These two must be someones pet.”

Yes, Tommy, probably displaced by the flood.”

After a filling meal, Patches and Fingers curled up at the boy’s feet and fell asleep. In the morning they ate again and went outside with Tommy. Patches barked several times and then gently took the boy’s hand in his mouth and tried to lead him towards the river.

He called out, “Ma, Ma, the Lab wants me to go with him.”

No, you stay here.”

She went outside and brought him into the house. After a while, Patches stopped barking and the travelers continued on their journey.

It had been five days since the flood began and Melissa, Fingers, Soar, and Patches had left the farm in the row boat. The Weston’s reach safety in a nearby town and had gone to Mr. Weston’s brother’s farm. Although the flood waters had receded, there were many casualties . . . families were split up, parents, relatives and children lost. And, of course, crops were destroyed and farm animals and pets were scattered far and wide.

Like many parents who had lost a loved one, Mr. Weston filed a police report when he arrived in Riverdale. The police were searching for those who were missing–but it was a long slow process with hundreds of calls of reported people and animals lost and found. And the rescue of those still stranded on roof tops, car tops, and in trees was still in progress. It would take weeks to restore order to Allan County.

Melissa still lay on the sandy beach of the island, unconscious. But behind her pale cheeks and closed eyes, another journey was taking place . . . .

Patches, Fingers, and Soar continued through the woods. An early spring storm was moving in and it got colder and colder. The wind and rain came and then the rain turned to snow. At first the snow was light and the troupe carried on, but the wind picked up and the snow became fierce. It piled up so that it was too deep for fingers to keep up with the labrador. The snow covered the ground and the scent and seemed to throw off Patches sense of direction. So when they came upon a huge log hollowed out by weather and age, they climbed inside and curled up to sleep.

The next morning the sun was out and the snow began to melt. The first thing Patches and Fingers did was hunt for their breakfast. But it was a quiet and desolate wood, interspersed with bogs and there was little that lived there and thus little to eat. At mid-day Soar caught up with them and brought a fish. The dog, raccoon, and hawk got what sustenance they could from it.

As night approached, the land grew more and more boggy. In many places their only choice was to backtrack several miles or to swim through cold, mucky water to reach the next land bridge.

That day, they traveled on past sunset and into the night. It was then that they heard the distinct blood chilling cries of a band of coyotes. Although this area near the Mississippi was mostly unpopulated with people, coyotes were not known to frequent it–they preferred the hilly and mountainous wilderness to the west. But this year, the cold winter and scarcity of food drove them out of their normal habitat. And coyotes were known to eat small dogs or even small children when they were hungry. As the yelps of the coyotes grew louder and sounded to Patches like the very voices of death, he felt trapped–the boggy landscape on one side and the coyotes on the other.

There were six of the beasts . . . they formed a semi-circle around Patches and Fingers who were backed up against the shore of a bog. Patches could see the faint reflection of the moonlight in their eyes. Like wolves, coyotes attacked in small bands and they work together to disable and kill their prey and then shared in the meal. Now one coyote that Patches hadn’t seen plunged forward from his left . . . Fingers dove at the animal, and tore into its leg. It retreated. Then a coyote rushed towards patches from the right. Patches met it with barks and bites and Fingers lunged for it, this time tearing into its throat. The animal withdrew with a series of yelps. One more beast attacked and one more time Fingers and Patches repelled it.

When the coyotes retreated, perhaps to regroup, Patches jumped into the bog and Fingers followed. They swam to the far shore and continued traveling until late into the night. When they were out of the clutches of danger, they curled up together in a hollow under a cliff and went to sleep.

The animals were awakened in the late morning by Soar with the reward of another fish. They ate their meal and then dolefully prepared to march on. Both animals had received cuts and tears to their bodies and now Patches walked with a limp.

They came out of the woods, walked through a field, and then found a dirt logging road which they gleefully followed. It was easy going and patches hoped it would lead to food and someone who could help them save Melissa. Soon they smelled the redolent odors of humanity and food. They quickened their pace, pulled off the road, and walked to the top of a ridge where they found a forest ranger’s cabin.

Again, Patches scratched on the door and whined and barked to get the owner’s attention.

Well, you don’t say . . . a lab and what’s that I see lurking behind you . . . why it’s a raccoon.”

He let the two quadrapeds into his one room cabin and then summarily fed them.

I can sure use the company up here, fellas. It’s been two weeks since I’ve seen another human being, what with keeping fire lookout and patrolling the forest. And I’m not do to return to town for another three weeks.”

After the ranger fed the animals, he let them outdoors. Soar joined his friends. He landed on a nearby fence and dropped a fish for them. He then flew down onto the ground to share in the spoils. The ranger was watching. He said, “What a motley crew.”

He had an idea. He walked over to the dog and read its license. It read: “Patches, Property of Melissa Weston, 15 County Road, Riverdale, Allan County, Missouri.”

The ranger sent an E-mail to the regional National Forest Service Headquarters asking them to check for the missing dog. He added, “As strange as it may seem, the dog seems to have befriended a raccoon and a redtail hawk. They seem to be traveling together. In the afternoon, he got his reply.

The message told of the flood and the little girl along with her three pets that were lost in the flood.

The ranger said he would bring the animals with him on his next visit to headquarters, in about three weeks.

That night Patches and Fingers slept comfortably in the cabin with the ranger. They spent another day living off his tasty meals and recooperating from their injuries. On the third day, however, they were ready to move on. After breakfast, Patches mimmiced the behavior he showed with the little boy, He barked and whined and then gently took the ranger’s hand in his mouth to lead him towards Melissa.

He said, “You animals are sure strange . . . what are you trying to tell me? I’ve got a job to do here . . . I can’t just leave my work on a whim.”

Patches and fingers returned to the dirt road and headed south through the forest. That night they came to a farm house. They walked through the fields, past the hen house, which created a flutter of wings and squawks, by the cow barn and pig pen . . . and then suddenly there was a chorus of loud, vicious, barking like a pack of hunting dogs after its prey.

A man with a small boy came out of the house and said, “What’s all the barking about here?” Then he saw Patches and a minute later, Fingers behind him.

Well, what do we have here? A yellow lab . . . just what I need to complete my collection of hunting dogs. Jessie, real nice like, go into the house and get a plate of food, and then while he’s eating, put a rope around his neck.”

The boy ran inside and a few minutes later emerged with the food. Since Patches had been treated well by people he’d met, he ate the food and ravenously and showed no fear when the boy pulled the rope over his head and onto his neck.

Bring him here, Boy.”

When the man had the rope in his hand, he jerked it back and sent Patches flying head over heals.

That’ll teach you to sneak onto someones land to steal. You’re my dog now, do you understand?”

He jerked the rope back, and Patches went flying again.

Jessie, put him in a solitary cell until he learns his lessons. By now, Patches was whining and crying.. Put him on one-quarter rations . . . And as for you, raccoon, you’re as good as dead, you no good sneak!”

With that he fired his shotgun at Fingers. But Fingers had been watching the scene with Patches and had already begun his retreat.

That night Fingers found a hollow log and slept alone. In the morning, he could hear Patches whining and whimpering in his cell. He used the time to hunt and the afternoon to rest and sleep.

Later in the day, Soar joined Fingers. When he heard Patches calls of anguish and the man and boy were out of sight, he went to inspect. He landed on Patches cage which lifted the dogs spirit but did little to alleviate his situation.

The next morning the man came out to Patches pen . . . “I’ll teach you to keep my family awake at night with your blubbering.” He put the rope around Patches neck and led him into the yard and tied him to a post while Patches whimpered and cried. The man summarily beat him with a heavy stick. Fingers and Soar mourned for their friend for his wales echoed across the forest and fields far and wide.

The following morning, Fingers woke very early, before the first faint glow of dawn and before the first crow of the roosters. He silently crept back onto the farm, past the chicken coup, the cow barn, the pig pen, and the dog kennels. While all were asleep and all was quiet, his dexterous fingers worked the catch on Patches cage. After several suspenseful minutes, it gave way, and Patches and Fingers stole across the field and into the woods.

They traveled fast and fiercely through the early morning mist. By the time the farmer had discovered the escape, his chance of catching Patches was all but lost. They traveled all that day as fast as was possible for a dog and raccoon. At one point, the barking of the man’s dogs grew loader, so they changed course and lost their pursuer for good. That night the duo slept soundly and cozily, happy to be together again and returned to their journey.

In the morning, after breakfasting on a rabbit that Patches caught, they continued on. Soon they heard familiar noises . . . the occasional rushing by cars. They followed the sound and came to a two lane paved road. They turned south onto it, and in the mid-afternoon, came to a small country store with several cars parked in front of it.

A tall, over weight, blond woman came out of the store and walked towards her car. Just as she was getting in, she noticed Patches and Fingers with Soar circling overhead.

Ah, pucky, pucky, pucky, poo . . . come here you little cutties, I won’t hurt you!” But Patches was wary after his experience with the farmer. He kept his distance and backed away. The trio moved quickly down the road.

That afternoon the lady who had called to Patches at the country store, drove into Sandy Cove, a small town thirty miles away, to do some shopping. When she got to the Sears Mail Order Store, she said, “Ruthie, how have things been?”

We’ve been deluged with people from the surrounding counties–they’ve been ordering everything imaginable: buckets, rope, generators, ice chests, canoes . . . it’s the flood. And you know Ben, he works for the National Forest.”

Of course I know Ben, I’ve only been coming into this store for the last nineteen years.”

He’s been gone all week, rescuing people stranded on their farms and returning lost people and animals to their right places. I’ll tell you, it was only a matter of luck that we weren’t washed out down here, too, Betsy.”

We’ll you won’t believe what I saw this morning. I saw the cutist yellow lab and he was traveling with a raccoon and some sort of a bird, maybe an eagle, can you believe that?. When I called to him to pet him and give him some food, he ran away. They headed south from McKinsey’s Store.” Probably belonged to some farmer up north.”

I certainly believe it, Ben told me about one farmer’s boy who had a badger for a pet, and another family that had adopted a couple of baby beavers. All lost in the flood. He said those beavers were the friendliest little pets you ever saw. Well, anyway, what’ll you have today?”

I’ve decided to redo the curtains in all my bedrooms . . . I’m going to need twenty yards of . . . .”

* * *

That night Ruth told Ben about the Menagerie of the Lab, Raccoon, and eagle that Betsy had seen. He went onto the National Forest Service database and found the notice about the lost dog, raccoon, and hawk placed by Mr. Westen and again spotted by the ranger up on Rocky Ridge. That night he called the Weston’s.

Hello, Mr. Weston?”

Yes, how can I help you?”

Ben Gifford, National Forest Service. We have two sightings of the missing animals you listed with us, a yellow lab, raccoon, and hawk.”

They were seen yesterday heading south on County Road Thirty-Four from McKinsey’s Corner Store towards Sandy Cove.”

How about my daughter, anyone seen Melissa?”

No, I’m sorry sir, there were no reports of a girl.”

Our boats were tied together and we were going for dry land during the flood. We got drawn into a fast current and then caught around a tree. I had to cut the line to Melissa and the animal’s boat. We saw her washed back into the main current of Mississippi. My God, I gotta assume the worst, the boat probably went over and she drowned. He broken down into tears . . . .”

I understand sir, I’ve been on rescue details all week. Families split up, animals lost or spread all over kingdom come. All I can say, is don’t give up hope, she could have made it to land.”

I’m sorry, Mr. Gifford, to break down like this. We’ve lost everything: the animals, the farm, and now my daughter. Tomorrow I’ll send my sons to look for the animals. Thank you for the call.”

* * *

The next day the Weston’s decided to make a family affair of searching for the Patch, Fingers, and Soar. They packed a picnic lunch, brought plenty of food for animals, and packed a Red-Cross emergency Medical Kit. As a last thought, Rich decided to tie a canoe on the truck’s rack just in case they needed to look for the animals near water. Mr. and Mrs Weston sat in the cab, and Rich and Herman in the bed of the truck.

They stopped at the McKinsey Corner Store and asked the owner about the trio. Mr. Mckinsey said that there had been no sightings of them since Betsy’s the day before. So the Weston’s drove slowly down the road towards Sandy Cove, stopping every time they saw something that looked liked spoor and to search any side roads or trails. After traversing the county road three times and talking to Ben Gifford, they found a dirt road that ran up to a small lake. They spread a checkered table cloth on the ground and set out a pleasant meal of fried chicken, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and fresh fruit.

Mr. Weston said, “This could turn out to be a wild goose chase. They could have cut across country and be in the next county by now.”

Mrs. Weston said, “We needed a break from the farm anyway–and who knows, they might pick up our scent and head home.”

Rich said with tears in his eyes, “We’ve lost Melissa, I’d sure like to have Patches and Fingers and Soar around to remind me of her.”

Herman said, “We know they’re alive– and if they don’t make it home, they’ll find someone to take them in.”

Mrs. Weston added, “They’ve wandered miles away by themselves in the past, and always returned home. Something is driving them south.”

Rich said, “Hey, I’m gonna take a little walk around the lake . . . I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

Disconsolately, the rest of the family finished their meal, packed up their picnic basket and blanket, and headed back towards the car.”

Rich trekked around the south end of the lake. It was an open pine forest covered with pine needles and pockets of ferns. He thought I won’t be able to track anything in here. He continued walking and moved towards the shore to avoid a concentration of berry bushes with sharp thorns. When he got there he saw some small foot prints with claws but thought nothing of them. He followed them, though, and the prints met up with distinct dog paw prints.

He shouted, “Pa, Herman, I’ve picked up their tracks at the south end of the lake.” They came running over to him. It’s Fingers and Patches.”

They all began shouting, “Patches, Fingers, Patches, Fingers.”

They followed the tracks to the far side of the lake, but they disappeared in the pine forest.

Mr. Weston said, “We can head in the direction they were going and keep calling in hopes that they’ll hear us.”

For the next two hours they followed Mr. Weston, each family member occasionally vearing west or east and then meeting up again with the others. But at the end of the day they had found nothing further.

Mr. Weston said, “It’s getting dark, we’ll have to head back, or they’ll be sending a search party after us.

Herman said, “We’re no better off than we were at lunch, they could still be thirty miles from here and have changed direction several times”

As they reached the truck, Rich, with tears in his eyes, said a prayer for the animals, and then said aloud, “Good bye Patches, Fingers, Soar. You find a good home. We’ll always love you.”

They climbed into the truck and Mr. Westen turned the key, but it wouldn’t start. “Oh, geeze, now all we need is for the truck to fail us and get stuck out here all night.”

He and Herman got under the hood, and searched for the problem. Rich sat mournfully in the bed of the truck. Suddenly he heard a faint bark. He said,

If only that were Patches.”

Mrs. Weston said, “I’m sorry Rich, sorry about all of this. We all miss Melissa and the animals.”

A few minutes later, Rich heard the barking again. He jumped down and ran headlong towards the south end of the lake shouting Patches, Patches . . . .”

Mr. Weston said, “Where’s he going?”

He thought he heard a dog barking. I didn’t hear a thing.”

Rich kept running and the barking seemed to be getting louder.
“Patch, Patches, Patches . . . . “ Then he’d stop and listen and the barking got louder still.

The sun was setting as Herman and Mr. Weston got the truck started. “Now where is that boy.”

He thinks it’s Patches. We’ll just have to wait for him.”
Rich came over a rise and there he saw Patches running towards him. The dog leaped into the air and flew into his arms. They both went rolling over and over down the hill. Rich held the dog in his arms and kissed him and the dog slobbered and licked his face. When they got up, Patches ran toward the top of the ridge and barked in the direction he’d come from. He then started making his way through the forest away from the lake and truck and Rich followed. Soon, Rich saw a low-to-the -ground shape moving towards him. It was Fingers. He picked up the raccoon and hugged him and the raccoon churled and climbed on Rich’s shoulders and on to the top of his head.

Rich pulled the raccoon off and they walked towards the lake and returned to the truck.

There was a grand reception for the two nomads. Patches made his rounds of greeting to each person and then Fingers followed. Just then Herman heard a whirring sound and said, “There must be bats out here . . . and then Soar landed on the hood of the cab of the truck. There were more cheers and greetings. Rich put out his arm, and Soar climbed on. Rich stroked its neck and chest.

When the reunion was over, Mr. Weston started the truck and they began driving home. “He said, Honey, it’s late and I think we need a break from the farm. Let’s drive into Sandy Cove, have dinner, and then stay at the Queen’s Arms.”

The next morning after a fine meal at the hotel restaurant and a feast for the animals, they headed home. Patches and Fingers road in the bed of the truck with Herman and Rich, and Soar in the cab on Mrs. Weston’s shoulder. They passed the lake where they’d found the three animals and then McKinsey’s Store. They traveled through a boggy area and then a dense forest. Suddenly, Patches began barking furiously. Rich tried to calm him. “What is it boy . . . what are you trying to tell us?”

When Mr. Weston slowed down to ask Rich what was the matter, Patches jumped out of the truck and then ran into the woods. He continued to bark.

Rich said, “He’s trying to tell us something . . . he wants us to follow him.”

Mr. Weston said, “Come on Rich, we don’t have time for a wild goose chase; we’ve got to get that farm in shape so we can do our fall planting.”

Dad there’s something here, Patches isn’t one to get upset without a good reason. What if he knows where Melissa is?”

With that, everyone got out of the truck, including Fingers and Soar, and followed the dog. It was tough going. Rich was directly behind Patches and had to weave his way around trees and bushes and through heavy undergrowth with stickers and thorns. They walked through the morning and into the mid-after. At three o’clock, they stopped to eat what was left of the picnic lunch. Patches and Fingers gobbled up their portions.

Rich said, “He’s heading north-west through the woods. If we continue in this direction, we’ll meet with the river.”

Mr. Weston said, “We’ve being walking for four hours now, we’re going to either have to camp out or head back to the truck.”

Honey, if he knows where Melissa is, isn’t it worth it to follow him?”

After lunch they continued walking. Soon, they heard a faint roar and then it got louder and louder.

Herman said, “It’s the Mississippi.”

Patches turned north at the river. The land was forested. In places the pines grew over the water, and in others there were sandy or rock shores with grasses and reeds growing close to the Mississippi.

From time to time they called out to Melissa, but there was no answer. They were juxtaposed with several small islands landscaped with stunted trees, bushes and grasses. Patches continued on. Mr. Weston pointed to Soar who was circling upstream over the river. They heard his call and saw him dive but his destination was lost behind the trees. When Rich caught up with Patch, the dog was barking at a long narrow island. They called out, “Melissa, Melissa”. There was no answer.

Patches jumped into the water and continued barking at the island and the family continued to call their daughter’s name.

Rich said, “There’s something on that island. He wants us to go to the island.”

Mr. Weston said, “The current’s too fast. We’ll have to launch the canoe way up river to reach it.”

Herman said, “If they crashed the row boat out their, Patches and Fingers had to swim to the shore. It’s a miracle they made it.”

The family sat down and Patch and Fingers came over to them. Patches shook himself and showered everyone with Mississippi River water.

Mrs. Weston said, “Listen, am I imagining it, or do I hear someone calling.”

Now they all heard it, “Ma, Pa, I am here. I’m hurt, I can’t get up.”

Mr. Weston shouted, Honey, we’re going to help you. We’ll get you off the island.”

Mrs. Weston said, “Oh, Darling, we love you, just hold on a little longer.”

Melissa, who had broken a leg, had remained laying on the sandy beach for ten days where Patches and Fingers had left her. She had subsisted on the food in the ice chest and silty river water. Now she used all her strength to drag herself towards the shore side of the island.

Rich said, “Look, there she is. Melissa! Stay where you are. We’re going to get the canoe and call for help.”

Herman took his shirt off and walked towards the river. Mr. Weston stopped him. “Herman, no, it’s too dangerous.”

Mr. Weston called Ben Gifford on his cell phone and asked him to send a helicopter. Rich and Herman returned to the truck to bring food, blankets, and the canoe.

They cut through the forest and made it to the road in a few hours. Then Rich and Herman walked the remaining distance to the truck. They returned to the shore with the canoe, food, coats, and blanket in the early evening. The family slept peacefully knowing they would soon have their beloved Melissa returned to them.

Mr. Weston called Ben Gifford, “Ben, Melissa’s alive, but injured. Maybe a broken bone. We’re going to try to pull her off the island with the canoe in the morning. We’ll need an ambulance.”

Way to go, Mr. Weston. The helicopter was out of the question. They’re still using it to lift the stranded people and animals off of farms and dry land in the flood zone.”

Thanks Ben, you don’t know how much we appreciate your call and the help.”

In the morning, the family walk a half-mile up stream from the island. Rich and Mr. Weston launch the canoe through a thick wall of reeds. The Mississippi was still raging. They cut across two-four foot waves of brown, mussy water. They made slow progress even with both of them paddling. As they neared the island, it looked as though the current would sweep them right on past it. They both put forth a prodigious effort on th oars. Rich tied himself to the bow of the canoe, and just as they were passing the lower end of the land mass, he lunged for the shore and caught onto a tree. Together they inched their way to land.

Hold on honey, this is going to hurt, but you’ll be safe in a hospital in a few hours.”

When they lifted her into the canoe, she screamed out with pain, a sure sign of a broken bone. The return journey to the shore was much easier because they could ease their way to the shore over a longer distance.

Mrs. Weston had been in cell phone contact with the Ambulance and had a stretcher with two medical technicians waiting for Melissa when she arrived. A joyful family greeting her with hugs and kisses and then she was carried to the ambulance and rushed to the hospital.

The Flood is a short story from Ken Wasil’s most recent book The Car of the Future and Other Stories.  Ken Wasil has written The Quick Style Guide for Writing for the Web and English Usage, A Great Escape: Short Stores for Travelers, Mr. Thoreau Goes to Boston, Rivers of Words, African Safari Bootcamp for Women.

He began his writing career through penning proposals, product descriptions, and advertisements while a sales and marketing representative of computer products and services and for a major film industry magazine.  He also wrote resumes and marketing literature while the branch manager of a writing company.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of California at Santa Barbara.  You can view his profile and books at http://www.amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com  

 

 

You can view his profile at http://www.amazon.com