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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My Work - Witness Protection

This is a story from an upcoming collection of short stories.

Tales From The Silver Side - The Reedy Fork Retirement Home

I hope you enjoy it.

Tales From The Silver Side coming out in November from Amazon and Kindle.

Witness Protection

She wasn’t ready to head home to go back to school. She wasn’t ready to head home at all. Casey wanted just one more week on the coast of California. She had the rest of her life in Baltimore. What was one more week?

She was mad when her mother started nagging on the phone about not missing the first week of school, explaining how she put off college for four years, and can’t put it off any longer since the tuition was covered. Then she got really pissed when her mother explained how to pick up her one-way plane ticket at the counter at Los Angeles International Airport. Her mother softened the blow, explaining the ticket was first class, probably the one-and-only time Casey would ever ride first class. Both parents went through a long list of things that would be taken away if she was not on that plane, a long enough list that Casey couldn’t back out.

Casey boarded the flight, moving to seat 2A, knowing she had responsibilities but this whole adulting thing wasn’t for her. She didn’t want to go home; she didn’t want to get lost in college; she just wanted to stay with Benjamin McFarland on Hermosa Beach.

Casey worked out some of her frustration on her seatbelt, calming as the flight attendant asked her if she wanted something to drink. “Umm, a beer,” she said, quietly accepting her fate.

While the flight attendant disappeared to get her drink, Casey closed her eyes and said a soft prayer, “Please Lord, it’s bad enough I have to leave Benjamin; please let me have a good flight, OK?”

Before she could say, “Amen,” a short, elderly lady escorted by a very handsome flight attendant stopped by the seat next to hers. Casey’s face fell as the woman threw a large embroidered bag on the floor in front of her seat attempting to cram it into the space under the seat in front of her. When the line to board lengthened the people waiting starting to grumble, the same gorgeous flight attendant came back, saying, “Can I try putting this in the overhead bin, or would you like me to check it to your destination?”

The old woman grabbed her bag, “Honey, my life is in this bag, so is my medication. No one wants me to have a heart attack on this plane, now do they?” she said loud enough, causing the line behind her to stop complaining for a minute.

“Then let’s put it in the overhead bin,” the flight attendant said, trying to pull the bag from her. When the woman wouldn’t let go, he tried a different tactic, opening the bin and pulling out a bag, looking to Casey, saying, “Is this yours?”

Casey cursed the gods, “Yes, that is my bag.” The flight attendant handed it to her, “Can you try and fit it under your seat?”

“Oh, I don’t know…”

The old woman grabbed Casey’s bag and threw it on the floor, Casey thinking about her iPod, “Oh, it will fit,” she said sitting down pushing the bag under the seat with her feet. Casey thought about her turkey sandwich, her iPod, and the fudge she was taking back to her brother smashing into one big blob under the seat in front of her. “Uh, thanks.”

The woman smiled, “No problem, sweetie. Always willing to help,” the whole row of seats shifted as she fell into seat 2B.

Casey didn’t answer, turning and staring out the window, wondering if Benjamin McFarland was still in the airport watching her airplane, or if he already went back to Hermosa Beach, meeting someone new. Was he missing her as much as she missed him?

Her thoughts were interrupted as the old woman grabbed her hand, “My name is Dolores, but everyone calls me Dottie. I mean all my friends, all the ones still living, call me that. Since we are on this long flight together, might as well be friends?” Before Casey could answer, Dottie continued, “I mean, that’s my philosophy: spend enough time with someone, and eventually you either become friends or enemies, and by the look of you,” she stopped, looking Casey up and down pausing just long enough to take a breath nodding, “We will definitely become friends.”

Casey gave her a weak smile. She thought of Benjamin, turning, leaning her head against the window, a lone tear running down her cheek.

“Oh, sweetie, what is it? Did you have to tell someone goodbye?” Dottie asked, handing Casey a tissue from her pocket, Casey wondering if it was used. 

Casey wanted to be mad at Dottie, but she couldn’t, she simply sniffed, accepting the tissue.

Dottie signaled the flight attendant, “I think I need a Jack Daniels.”

The flight attendant looked down, the passengers finishing loading the airplane, “We are getting ready for departure.”

Dottie turned looking down the aisle, “Honey, half of this airplane hasn’t even walked onboard yet, if I am not done by the time that door closes, then I deserve you taking away my drink.”

The flight attendant looked at them, sighing, returning shortly with two bottles of Jack Daniels and two cups of ice. Dottie thanked her, offered a bottle to Casey, who refused, putting the bottle into her large purse, “Don’t want to waste it; we can always save for later.”

She poured a drink, took a sip turning to Casey, “So, was it a man?”

Casey sniffed, nodding.

Dottie took a sip of her drink, “Tell me all about it.”

Casey for some reason started talking, later she would tell her friends she couldn’t explain why, she felt compelled to tell Dottie everything, “I met Benjamin at Club Therapy.”

“Club Therapy, is that a mental hospital?” Dottie asked.

“No, it’s a martini bar on the South side,” Casey replied.

“A martini bar named Therapy, there’s a joke in there somewhere.” Dottie took a sip of her drink, “Oh, I get it, therapy.” She held up her glass, winking.

Casey smiled, “I mean we connected on a cosmic level, like we knew each other forever. But life gets in the way, it always does. I have to go home and back to school. I feel like I am leaving my fairy tale behind,” Casey said, trying to end with a dramatic sigh, it coming out like a dramatic snort.

She expected something from Dottie, Dottie was silent. She sipped her drink, pulled a crochet needle out of her bag, turning a few knots,” So you fell in love.”

Casey sniffed again, “Yes.”

“And how long were you in Hermosa Beach?” Dottie asked.

“Two weeks,” Casey replied, wiping her eyes.

Dottie took another sip of her drink, paused, saying, “You don’t know shit.”

Casey dropped her tissue, looking at Dottie, “Excuse me?”

Dottie handed her a fresh tissue from her purse, “Honey, you don’t even know the boy if you’ve only been with him two weeks. Love is fickle; you have to pay your dues before you find true love.”

“Pay your dues,” Casey repeated, wondering if she should feel offended.

“When I mean pay your dues, it is kissing all those frogs, like Cinderella.” Dottie said.

Casey looked at her, “Cinderella didn’t kiss any frogs; she had the glass slipper.”

“Frogs, slippers, you know what I mean. Life is cruel, because you need to learn your lesson about the frogs,” Dottie replied.

Casey was beginning to wonder if she was sitting next to a crazy woman, “I don’t follow you.”

Dottie took another sip of her drink, “You have to learn what it feels like to fall in love a few times, so you don’t miss it when the real thing comes along.”

“How it feels to fall in love?” Casey asked.

“Right, now when you see this Stanley fellow…” Dottie started.

“Benjamin McFarland.”

“Right, him, does your heart speed up?” Dottie asked.

“Yes,” Casey smiled.

“And your body feels hot,” Dottie added.

“Yes,” Casey whispered.

“And you get, well you know what I mean,” Dottie finished.

Casey blushed, “Um, yes.”

Dottie turned to her seat mate, “Now, the big question, have you felt that way before, with another boy?”

Casey pondered that for a moment before replying, “But this time is different.”

“And that is why nature throws us curve balls, you don’t know if he is the right one until you can tell the difference between just flutters and the real thing,” Dottie nodded. “They all start out as frogs, we have to figure out which one is the prince.”

“It really felt like he was my prince,” Casey sniffed.

“Human beings are hard-wired to fall in love. It really doesn’t take much. Let me guess, in your case it was a sandy beach, a beautiful sunset, the salt air…” Dottie ticked each item off of her fingers.

Casey smiled, that was the exact setting when she told Benjamin she loved him, “You forgot Kenny Chesney.”

Dottie laughed, “Mine was Mel Torme.”

“Mel Torme?”

Dottie smiled, “You haven’t heard music until you’ve heard the “The Velvet Fog.” That guy can put you in the mood for even a gynie appointment.”

Casey laughed, “Who was your frog?”

The flight attendant appeared clearing away their glasses, “I’m sorry ladies, we are getting ready for takeoff.”

Dottie smiled at her, “Don’t worry, but make sure you bring it back. I’ve got a story to tell.”

They leaned back quietly in their seats as the plane taxied out to the runway, and after a short wait, were in the air heading east. Dottie looked over to Casey, “I met my frog over 56 years ago. I was 20, and Henry was 26 years old. The first time I saw him was my first day of basic training.”

“Basic training,” Casey asked, her interest piqued.

“He was the freshly sheared blonde, looking scared, standing with the line of recruits,” Dottie laughed.

“You were in basic training,” Casey asked, trying to picture Dottie in a uniform.

“No, honey, I was a nurse at the base. Henry came in with a sprained ankle, his first day in training,” Dottie’s eyes got a far-away look.

“How long have you been married?” Casey asked.

“Married? I haven’t married him – yet,” Dottie replied with a smile.


“Let me continue. I met Henry when he was stationed for basic training. First it was a sprained ankle that brought him into the infirmary. The second time was a laceration to his arm and a few stitches. He finally got the nerve up to ask me out for coffee when he came in with a broken nose. I joked with him if he hadn’t asked me out sooner, he’d be dead.” Dottie sighed.

“How long did you date?” Casey asked.

“We dated for the four weeks of basic training, then he left,” Dottie said frowning.

“What? I thought he was your prince.” Casey said, confused.

“He was still a frog then. He ended up leaving before I realized he was my prince,” Dottie explained.

“You didn’t marry him?”

“He was sent to Vietnam, and I lost track of him. I figured this was life teaching me what it felt like to fall in love, but he wasn’t the real thing. Then I met Corky,” Dottie smiled.


“Yes, my husband. We were married for 52 years. We had five children and 32 grandchildren, six great grandchildren. He started as a frog, too, but I stuck with him, and he became my prince.” Dottie started crocheting again.

Casey felt like something was left out, “Then why are you telling me about Henry?”

“Because sometimes a frog comes into your life again. I ran into him again a few years later when Henry came to the VA with heart problems,” Dottie replied.

“How did you know it was him?” Casey asked.

“A woman’s heart doesn’t forget her first love, especially if you let that frog go. Inevitably he will come back into your life, like Henry did,” Dottie said, sipping her drink.

“Did he recognize you?” Casey asked, a romantic picture of them meeting again in her mind.

Dottie nodded, “He was coming out of anesthesia, and I was there.” Henry said, ‘Have I died and gone to heaven? I never thought I would see you again.’ I remember smiling at him and saying, ‘Let’s not start getting hurt again just to see me.’”

Casey was mesmerized, “Did you fall in love with him?”

Dottie took a deep breath, “The strange part is that I never really fell out of love with him. It was all there, rushing back at once, the sweaty palms, the weak knees, the full body flush – like what you feel with Bernie.”

“Benjamin,” Casey corrected.


“Did you run away with him?” Casey asked.

Dottie sighed, “That’s where life can be tricky. My frog was a prince, but it wasn’t our time. We were both married to great people we loved, and running away would affect too many other people’s lives.”

Casey couldn’t help herself, “But he was your prince.”

“That’s my point, it all depends on when and where. Sometimes you have to choose. Corky, he was a frog too, I married him, wondering if I would eventually see a prince. And you know what?”


“I did. He became my prince during our journey together. My partner in our home healthcare business, my partner in raising all those kids, helping me deal with aging parents, and making difficult decisions. I could not leave my prince behind for a lost love, when I had the real thing right in front of me.”

“Oh,” Casey whispered, feeling her story was so small.

“Too many give up when the going gets tough. They think they have a frog, and then they learn too late it really was a prince. If he is your prince, he will wait for you. Or you may find during time apart another prince enters your life. Even if different princes enter your life, you’ve decided and committed to your prince; it’s a life-time journey, a work in progress until the end.”

“Wow.” Casey said quietly.

Dottie settled back in her seat, “My Corky passed away about a year ago.”

Casey felt tears in her eyes, “Oh, wow, I am so sorry.”

Dottie waved her off, “That’s where it gets really ironic.”


“Yes, after Corky died, I decided to treat myself to a Senior Singles Cruise of Alaska,” Dottie said.

“And you fell in love again?”

“No, but it helped me decide that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life alone. I am moving into a retirement home,” Dottie said smiling.

“What? Why would you do that?” Casey asked.

Dottie pulled a brochure out of her bag handing it to Casey, “See, this is where I am going: The Reedy Fork Retirement Home.”

“Why there, across America on the East coast? Isn’t your family on the West coast?” Casey asked, wondering if Dottie had lost her mind.

Dottie pointed to a picture inside the brochure.

Casey looked at it, “A cyber cafe? You are moving across the United States for a cyber cafe? I am sure there is a home in California with a cyber cafe.”

“No, that picture is why I am going. See that man sitting at the computer?” Dottie said, pointing to a very distinguished man.


“That’s Henry.”

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