A Visit chapter four

I had no idea my meeting Ann Nowak would happen so soon. I could imagine a hypothetical situation where we connected but the move from wishful thinking to real planning was a happy surprise.

I had watched the interview last night, up until the part when she said she was looking for a partner. I was tired and wanted to save the rest of the show for when I was fully awake the next day. I remember thinking that my turning it off right then was also an aesthetic choice. She talked about about being picky and not wanting to connect with people who were incompatible. If I watched further, she might have described a person like me. As long as I did not have evidence to the contrary, I could not assume so.

My rest was relaxing and peaceful. I did not suffer from the effects of a sour aching stomach which usually plagued me every day at home. I was used to it and drank Vodka in the afternoon, listening to music while my cousin watched movies on television. If I had not drank alcohol, my stomach would probably have ached less but I needed an outlet for escape. Janet was a nice person but her interests were centered on a specific movie actor, of whom she watched at least three or four of his films every day. When she was not watching a movie, she was listening to top forty hits that made me cringe. For a person like me whose tastes in music were classical like Dmitri Shostakovich or jazzy like Anthony Braxton, teenyboppers with single letters like T or numbers like 2 as first or last names did not appeal to me. As much as she would have liked to shed her Goldman image, she was a part of a clan that wallowed in artificial things. My way of distancing myself from it was by drinking Vodka.

Janet was not a fan of the type of food I ate. Fish and chips were my favorite, with vinegar as a dipping sauce. She did not like vinegar. She did not like mustard on her hot dogs or onions in salad or cayenne pepper on fried chicken, all things I loved. She could handle sweet honey barbecue sauce on ribs and mayonnaise was fine on tuna salad so we had a meeting of the minds with those foods. She did not know how to cook. She could put sliced pieces of ham and cheese between two pieces of bread and serve it as long as everything was in front of her with no wrapping needed to be opened. I made the meals. I did my best with the bland itinerary. That could have also caused my sour stomach because there was not enough of the type of ingredients that made for healthy intestinal flora. One could assume that a mild meal was a healthy meal but, taken to the Goldman family extreme, it caused illness and obesity.

I felt like I was the one guest at a party who was served the second-rate leftovers while everyone else had the top-notch fare. Before I took my friend’s advice and reunited with the Goldmans, the women who flirted with me were an assorted lot, some good looking and others not as much; but after I met up with family, the majority of women who flirted with me were not my type.

When I found out that William arranged for me to meet with Ann, I could not help but feel gratitude for his picking me up from my muck and putting me where a lot of lucky people go.

I had woke up around nine o’clock in the morning. When I went in the dining room, Georgette smiled and said, “Hello, sleepyhead. Breakfast is ready if you’d like some.”

We had scrambled eggs and cheese, two slices of ham each, pieces of cut-up banana and a glass of orange juice. The view from the window was nice, reminding me of life in Marin County when I was a kid. What if I could go back to that type of experience and consider the last fifteen years as a side trip that I barely remembered?

As I ate the last of my breakfast, William said, “I talked to someone this morning.”

I nodded. “Anyone I know?”

“Ann Nowak. I told her you were reading Energy Mirrors and, before I could lay it on thick and make you out to be this dazzling celebrity, she asked if she could meet you. Here’s her number. She’d like you to call her as soon as possible.” He handed me a piece of paper.

“Should I call her?”

“Well, I think you should call her first and then, if that doesn’t go as planned, I think you should call her.”

“What should I say?”

“Words.”

I was nervous. That was a natural reflex whenever I was about to be involved in situations I liked. A bad situation seemed more like business as usual but a happy situation was less familiar and I was less prepared to handle it. “What I mean is, how do I introduce myself? Will she know it’s me?”

“She said she is eagerly awaiting your call and she hopes you call soon because she’s waiting right now by the phone.”

I nodded and went to the phone. I dialed the number. After the first ring, she said, “Hello. I hope this is Phillip.”

“Yes, it is. You’re Ann Nowak, right?”

“I am. Would you want to take a walk with me this morning? I’d really like to connect.”

“Okay. Right now, I still haven’t finished waking up or getting dressed yet. It’ll take me about a half hour to charge my batteries so I can be my regular self.”

“I understand. How about you can call me again when you’re ready to connect? I can give you the address to my place.”

“Sounds good. If my voice seems nervous, it’s because… I don’t have a great excuse. I just sound nervous.”

“Nervous means you’re alive. I wouldn’t want to meet someone who was a dead lump.”

“Oh, shucks. I was going to ask my dead lump to join us. I guess I won’t now, ha ha.”

“That’s funny. You sound cute.”

“Thanks. You do, too.”

“Awesome. Please hurry. I feel you are already here and I want your body to catch up to the feelings.”

“Okay. Call you soon.”

“Thank you.”

I hung up and ran in the guest room. I was not sure what she would wear but I wanted to show her I was conscious of appearances. I saw two examples only of how she dressed. William told me she was consistent in her appearance. I assumed that whatever she had on would be for my benefit. She would put on something before I arrived. I picked a blue button shirt and black jeans with the sleeves buttoned because, though I liked the rolled-up and pushed-up sleeve look on women, I thought that it was strange on men. I would not do something that seemed not right for me. I did tuck in my shirt because Ann would probably think I looked sexy wearing it.

If she had been a Goldman, she would consider an old moth-eaten muumuu to be dressy, as opposed to loose faded sweat clothes with stains on them. The contents of half a dinner would clinging on the front of the shirt. Paul had a whole closet full of clean impeccable business suits which would have made him look professional but he was afraid to try them on because they no longer fit him and he wanted to avoid them ripping. He wore sweatpants with large gaping holes in the front and he never wore underwear. Sometimes he went on his errands with no shirt on and cockroaches crawling all over his stomach. He would walk in the middle of the street, to avoid bumping into anybody on the sidewalk, so cars had to swerve to avoid him. When I visited them, I did the opposite of what I would do with Ann. I made sure to wear clothes that would not get ruined by the dirt and dust in their apartments. I would dress the opposite of good. I would make sure to pick things that had a few stains so I could indirectly say there was no way I would look spiffy for them. They did not even notice. They would compliment me and say I looked great.

The amount of time I took getting ready was ten minutes. To me, even as little as fifteen minutes would be rude to a woman like her who was not just any person but an author and not just any author but a good looking female author who was eager to meet me. I thought I felt a little bit of what she meant about my energy because I was feeling hers, also. Perhaps we were sharing a psychic connection.

When I called her back, the conversation was short. I told her I was on my way and she gave me her address. She lived merely eight blocks away from Georgette. If I had been in Antioch, I would have been walking a half hour. New York’s blocks were shorter so I doubt I walked longer than ten minutes.

Her place looked quaint and classy, like a kind of parody on its own seriousness. There were a few steps leading up to a porch. The other houses did not have porches. Just that little bit of difference made it stand out in a way that one would have to see to believe but was otherwise congruent with the surroundings, as if the neighborhood’s rules were one house per block had to be the noticeable one and hers volunteered. I knocked on the door. An older man answered. He was wearing a tuxedo. He said, “Hello, Mr. Kauffman. Miss Nowak is inside. Please come in.”

“Thank you.” Inside, her house reminded me of the type of modern-day home seen in an art movie, where the main character is psychologically screwed up and about to have a fit but everything around him is elegant, causing a contrast between the person and the architecture. Ann in no way looked like she had a problem. She walked towards me with her hand extended, wearing a pin-striped white button shirt, tucked into dark blue jeans with a white belt. Her sleeves were rolled up like a business person’s. She was very sexy, especially with her hand out and an expression on her face like she had been planning this handshake all day. She said, “Hi, Phillip. I’m looking forward to talking with you.”

I walked towards her and she shook my hand. Instead of letting go, she kept shaking. Her grip was not extremely firm but it was exact. I knew she wanted me to continue holding on until she decided to stop. As far as I was concerned, the longer the better. I felt not only her hand but her stories as well.

“So, how do you like your stay in New York so far?”

“I think it’s magical. I was here ten years ago and I still have great memories and I’m glad I’m back.”

“Yes. New York is great. Where do you live?”

“Oakland, California.”

She nodded. “I was there once. I think the area was Piedmont Avenue. I was invited to hear a friend speak at UC Berkeley and my friend lived in Piedmont. I would like to go there again.”

“Piedmont is a pleasant street, a little more upscale than the rest of Oakland. I live more in the downtown area by 14th Street and Broadway.”

“Okay. So that’s where I’ll be going, by 14th Street and Broadway.”

“It’s more like the rest of Oakland. I’m not saying it’s spectacular or anything. But it’s okay.”

“But if you live there then that’s where I’m going.”

“You mean, when you visit again?”

“Yes, when you leave at the end of the week.”

I was not sure if she was joking but I had trouble thinking she was serious. She sounded like an old grandfather in a movie, telling his grandson, “You stick with me, kiddo. I shine the shoes, you tap dance for the customers and someone will discover us. We’ll be rich and famous. Bigger than Mr. Rockefeller.”

She looked at me as if she was waiting for my response. I did not know what to say. Her handshake was still going. I felt like she was using it to inform me that what I agreed to do with her was something in which I could not stop. Finally, she raised her eyebrow as if she was wondering why I did not speak so I said, “There’s only one ticket. I don’t have another one for you.”

She shrugged and smiled. “Okay. Then, maybe something else can be worked out. Would you like to sit down with me?”

“Okay.”

She walked, pulling me with her. The room was white and so was the couch, in contrast to the rest of the house with walls like silver and black marble. We sat down. She said, “William tells me you write stories too. Is there a place where I could find them?”

“There’s a few in some small periodicals but none are big name publications. Most don’t even qualify to be included on the list for the Pushcart Prize. But I might have one or two back home. When I go back, I can make copies and send them to you.”

“That’s possible. You could also tell me about some of them.”

Suddenly, I was nervous because my stories were about subjects that were too close to this situation for me to want to mention. I said, “I can tell you more later but for now they’re about people meeting.”

“Okay. Now I know. It is not as though that’s a common subject, people meeting. It’s just as unusual as stories about fathers and sons. You don’t have to hide. I want you to expose yourself. Tell me about your stories.”

“I’d probably feel less nervous pulling down my pants and exposing myself that way than telling you about the stories.”

“Okay. Do that.”

“I was just actually making a point. I don’t think I could really pull down my pants right now.”

“Then tell me about your story. Any story. You read some of my stories. I have not had the same privilege to read yours. Please tell me at least a little bit.”

“Well, if I tell you what I usually write about you might not know what to think.”

“That’s what’s happening right now. I’ll know more how to think after you tell me.”

I shook my head. Enough was enough. I would just say what I would say and let her deal with it. “I write stories about women who meet men and they shake hands and the women keep shaking and don’t let go.”

She nodded. “Does this story have a name?”

“One is called Awkward Partners. It’s about a business man on a vacation with his family and they need to get gas for the car. They’re in a really remote area next to a highway which has miles and miles of nothing. The man gets gas and then goes inside the station to pay for the gas. The old woman keeps telling him he looks like that old star Burt Newman. He does not want to correct her because he wants to get out of there. Something about the place seems too weird. However, right before he leaves he has to use the bathroom. He gets the key to the bathroom and uses it. When he comes out, a younger woman is standing there and says, ‘You can give it to me.’ He gives her the key and she extends her hand and thanks him. He shakes her hand and she grips very tight and will not let go. He tries to let go but she keeps holding on, laughing like she now has the voice of the old woman. The old woman says, “Missie, do your thing! She’s a good partner there, yes mister!” His family is outside, honking the horn of the car impatiently. His wife screams, “Let’s go!” He tries frantically to pry his hand out of Missie’s but she just laughs viciously and keeps on shaking and that’s how it ends.”

“That’s beautiful. Now, why wouldn’t you want to tell me that?”

“Maybe because you’re shaking my hand for a long time.”

“I don’t see why I would be bothered by that story idea.”

“I also describe Missie as wearing a white button shirt and black slacks and her shirt is tucked in. I like how women look in tucked in shirts so most of my stories have the good looking women wearing them.”

“Indeed.”

“Does that bother you?”

“Nothing about you bothers me.” She put her other hand on top of my hand that she was still holding and rubbed the back of my hand. “People get so nervous about connecting. People need to attach themselves to others more.”

“Kind of like how you’re attaching yourself to me, ha ha. A little joke.”

“You don’t have to be nervous.”

Suddenly, the butler came in the room. “Peter is here to see you.”

She shrugged. “Fine.”

A tall young man wearing a loose black T-shirt and blue jeans, with curly brown hair and glasses, walked in. He pointed to a watch on his hand but did not say anything. He was straight faced.

She said, “Peter, meet my guest. This is Phillip.”

Peter said, “The time…” He sounded impatient.

She smiled. “Thank you. Is that all?”

He rolled his eyes and sighed but did not answer.

I figured there was something going on that I did not want to be in. I said, “I can come back later.”

She said, “Stay.”

“No. I really think I should go.”

Peter said, “I would.”

Ann frowned. “Hey!”

Peter looked at her as if to ask, “What?”

I got up from the couch. Ann was still holding my hand with both of hers. I said, “Please let go.”

She said, “No. You let go first.”

“I don’t want to be a jerk. That’s why I want you to let go first.”

Peter folded his arms. “You don’t want me involved.”

To him, I said, “I apologize if I did anything to offend you.”

Peter said, “You just saved yourself.”

Ann said, “Oh, come on now. You weren’t going to follow him and do something?”

He shrugged. “Good idea.”

Ann looked frightened. “Oh, come on, don’t hurt him!”

Peter smiled mischievously.

I pulled free. I thought she would keep me from letting go but that did not happen. Peter’s calm and cool stance of menace freaked me out. I walked out without saying anything. The butler nodded sadly.

As I walked, I looked back for a split second as if to give my final acknowledgment at least to the building. Peter was standing outside by the doorway. He took a picture of me with his cell phone.

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A Visit chapter three

After we ate dinner, which was excellent, I looked more at Ann Nowak’s book. The first story, coincidentally enough, was called “Cuisine Cousins” and was about food. First, there was a detailed description of a meal. Writing about food was the easiest form of skillful prose. Most people can conjure images of how a meal will taste. A ham and cheese sandwich will be more than just those four words: they will be a yearning in the stomach. I enjoyed reading about food, especially after I ate. Ann’s descriptions of food were interesting and odd:

“Bernard had happily tasted the tomato-chocolate souffle: ‘Did you add any cream to that?’ shouted his fat cousin Florence who was engulfing oyster and jam shooters all afternoon. ‘In a minute, bitch!’ cried the irate chef, ready to add the steam from his ears into the mix. ‘Cream of mint, I suppose’ he sneered, ‘and let me not forget the agave nectar in the vinegar cake!’”

The story is about two cousins. Neither can find a romantic partner so they spend time with each other, indulging in the one thing they have in common: eating. One cousin, Florence, is apparently obese, causing her to feel she is overlooked by “most of the handsome men who could sleep on her stomach.” Bernard, the chef, is described as “a little bit husky, but more like corn, not pillow.’ Each meal is more important than the last. Bernard and Florence blame their “pathetic excuse of a gene pool” for their sorrows so “they figured early on to eat all the happiness, however mildewed it became.” They decide one night to tell each other their favorite recipes but they get increasingly angry during the telling:

Bernard says, “Add a cup of fish oil to the can of hominy. Include eggs and licorice; beat until not smooth so I can hit you over the head with it!”

Florence says, “A pinch of vanilla, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, cashews, asparagus, cottage cheese, maple syrup, dandelion root, a bit of your stupidity, your bigotry, your humanity and blend them together until you die!”

The story ends when they walk towards each other, carrying knives, ready to “taste each other’s screams.” Some people would consider such a story to be disturbing but I thought about some of the dinners I had with the Goldmans and how they behaved. Ann’s story was a comic retelling of what I experienced, although the real life version was less fun and caused me to get sick during the meals.

The next story is called “Naked Thoughts” about two “air memes of emotion without the physical people shells to hide them.” From what I could understand, these two “energies” become so intensely aware of their existence that they “packed up and left the people to whom they once belonged.” The energies do what is called “mm-talk.” “Mm” seems to be the closest way to describe “an unnamed understanding.” There are supposedly no sounds emitted or words spoken but the two energies “intuit the other’s mm.” The story is written in odd fragmented sentences which are supposed to represent each flash of intuitive awareness as each energy “mm”s it, but there is no indication of whether an energy is male or female and there is a moment in the story when the author hints at the possibility there is really only one energy “splitting into layers of opinions like onions and unions.”

Here is one paragraph: “Yes because we – almost felt – as if one – but here they – could only wish – which reminds – not them – but we should kiss – like years ago – before they became us – or estranged us – without the mm – of our mm.”

I was not able to understand everything but the story worked in a way I could not describe, which perhaps was its point.

Another story is called “I Was Once Them” about a man who lives next door to a group of people who are in a complicated relationship. The man sits outside in his back yard, listening to when the neighbors – any combination of them – go outside to discuss something, “away from the others.” There is a fence dividing the two properties so the neighbors do not see the man who sits on a chaise lounge and listens to them. The story is told by the man who is listening:

“I was once them. I was once all of them, with their convoluted resolutions, cowardly courage and cocktail-hour confusions. I had the feelings and I had the denials. I had the regret and I had the regret of regret. But, now. Oh, but now! I am cleansed! I am cleansed by entertainment! My neighbors put on a show for me, a show they do not know I see, because they do not know that they are who I used to be. But I remember the emotions so well! However, I know them as recapitulation, not regurgitation. That flavor tastes better when somebody else swallows it.

“Yesterday, Gwen told John she loves Gary. Gary told John he loves Martha. Martha told John she loves him. John told himself he loves me. But I will not love him back! Oh, but I do love his anguish. My not playing their game is a part of the play.”

As the story progresses, the narrator describes some of the conversations he hears but refuses to believe they know he is listening, even when his descriptions indicate they are aware he is listening:

“Poor John! Shouting at phantoms, coincidentally a ‘couch dweller of an older hunk named Carter.’ If only he knew how close he is – how actually identical he is – to describing me when he describes the cutie of his dreams, telling Greg, ‘I have a thing for my next door neighbor’ while Greg says, ‘Sshh! He’s listening!’ To that, John says, ‘I know he is.’ Such fantasies they imagine, hoping for a reality where I really do sit and listen to them, and I know they do not – even though I do – love him!”

The story gets stranger. The narrator, who is now identified as Carter, gets into a twisted thought pattern where he believes his neighbors are mimicking his old emotions, long after he no longer feels them, “because somebody has to.”

“He says he loves her and she says she loves another and that’s how I think, used to think. I am no longer them but they are me! What I said yesterday to Greg, when I was John, was ‘Gary, I know I am scrutinizing John too much when he talks about Carter, because I know I am only a replica of the Carter he imagines.’ Then, I told John, when I pretended to be Gary – who knows damn well he can imitate me better than I can imitate me – ‘He might as well wait for him to shut us up.’ Ha ha ha ha!”

I was able to finish that story, which became so convoluted it did not really end as much as it just stopped, and then I had to take a break. I had read literature like this in the past and I did not need to put those books down like I did Ann Nowak’s. Her work was not too challenging but it buzzed with energy, as if the title of the book also served as a description of the warm buzz one would feel while reading it. My buzz came from the knowledge she lived probably close to where Georgette and William were located, combined with how good looking she was, topped with the possibility of meeting her.

William walked in the living room where I had been reading. He asked, “Her book is a bit unusual, would you say?”

“Absolutely, but I think it’s great. Do you like it?”

“I do. There are some days when her stories would be a little too much but there are other days when it’s exactly what I’m craving to read.”

“How is she like in person?”

“Are you asking me because you want to meet her?”

“Do you want me to meet her?”

He laughed. “You saw her picture on the back cover and you fell instantly in love.”

“I haven’t even met her.”

“Not yet, but you really want to.”

“I mean, it would be okay.”

“You sound like meeting her would be you doing her a favor.”

“I don’t know. I’m mostly interested in her writing.”

“Aah, young love. You want to watch your darling Ann writing in her notebook, outside on the patio during the first rays of sunshine. You bring her coffee, kiss her on the cheek and ask, ‘What are you writing now, my dear?’”

“If I admit I think she’s good looking, will you stop?”

“You know I’m just teasing you. A lot of people like her. She’s a very popular subject of conversation at Columbia.”

“Does she ignore people when they say hi to her?”

“Not that. She’ll say hi. But some guys will want to get into a long conversation and she won’t say much unless she likes you. If she likes you, she’ll let you know.”

“Will she kiss someone?” I laughed.

“Not too far off. She’ll pat someone on the hand. She’ll stare and smile. I don’t believe she’s seeing anybody serious. She may or she may not like you or in that way. But it’s worth investigating.”

“Does she usually dress like how she looks on the book?”

“How do you mean? She isn’t wearing a Halloween costume.”

“Does she wear her shirts tucked in?”

“Hmm. Interesting you should ask that because, for some strange reason, I think I recall that’s usually what she wears.”

I nodded. “So, do you agree that the style is sexy?”

“Sure, on the right person. I’m not going to think Mr. Fletcher, the old professor of Russian History who’s bald and could be my great grandpa, as sexy, whether he wears a tucked in shirt or not, but yes it’s attractive to look neat.”

“Thanks for answering me about her. When I saw her picture, it helped as I read her stories.”

“If you would like, I can put on a video of an interview she did with Alvin Tannenbaum on a local news and culture show sponsored by the university. That way, you can watch her and get her ideas at the same time.”

“Okay. That’ll be great.”

The difference between a visit with Georgette and William, as opposed to the Goldmans, was that any woman Eliza would suggest for me to meet would look like either my cousin Janet or the woman Florence in the story “Cuisine Cousins.” Dinner would be the difference between gourmet feast and poison. Tonight, we ate a home made chicken soup, very filling and heartwarming. The dining room was clean. There were pictures father painted when he was a young college student. I noticed a copy of a novel written by an old friend of our family named Adolf Turner, who went to art school with father and never made a big name for himself but, once in a while, a person could find a novel of his in an old used book store. The closest thing to a painting at either Eliza’s or Paul’s place would be the dirt marks on a wall. The only reading material was a paperback book, missing the front cover, on pet care. That was courtesy of Eliza who never owned a pet. She said she found the book in a dumpster on a day when she was bored. She could not remember anything else about that day. I asked her if she read it. She said she read the title, “How To Raise Flowers In A Pot.” I told her it was called, “How To Take Care Of Your Cat.” She shrugged and fell asleep.

William came in the living room with a video tape. He said, “It’s possible this episode hasn’t even been aired. The host is a professor and friend, Lloyd Parker. He gives me copies of all the authors and psychologists in case I find the episodes useful when and if I need research for my study on the comparative paradigms of psychology and fiction.”

“Are you writing a new book?”

“In my mind I’ve got what I want to say but I haven’t put any of it down on paper yet. I’m still deliberating whether or not anybody cares anymore about books. I know that my study will be looked at by only a few specialists in the field of psychology who will quote one little sentence from it in their books which will serve another specialist who will quote those books. That’s how it works. Publish or perish. It’s not important if anyone reads the damn things, just as long as you can tell your bosses, ‘Hey, look at this. I’m published. You can’t fire me!’ I have tenure so I’m safe but I still like the idea of coming out with another tome. It’ll keep me busy when I start.”

“Didn’t you write the novel ‘Here If You See Me’?”

“Oh my. How did you ever manage to snatch that?”

“Georgette loaned me her copy when I was last in New York.”

“Now I’m wondering how she got a hold of a copy.”

“You mean you didn’t give her one?”

“I wouldn’t ever be so cruel.”

“I liked it. Did you ever read Gore Vidal’s ‘The Season Of Comfort’? It reminded me of that novel.”

“I’ve read Gore Vidal but not that particular book. But I have to thank you for that enormous compliment. You get the humanitarian award for best compliment to a shitty writer.”

“All authors hate their own work.”

“It’s true. Actually, here is the only exception to that rule.” He put the video tape in the machine and turned on the television. “You’ll see someone quite able to defend what she does. I’m going to get some sleep. Georgette already went to bed. She told me to tell you good night because she was too tired to tell you herself. Enjoy!” He waved and walked in the bedroom.

After the opening title – News, Authors and Some Jazz – I saw Lloyd Baker on the left, sitting on a recliner. He wore glasses, had medium-length brown hair and wore a black three piece suit and tie with a white shirt peeking from underneath the suit jacket. On the right, sitting on another recliner, was Ann Nowak, wearing a white down jacket, with her sleeves pushed up past her elbows. The jacket was tucked into blue jeans with a black belt with silver studs. She made what would ordinarily look like a strange fashion choice an outfit of brilliance. Was this a purposeful tie-in to her surrealist tag or an organic extension of how she felt about herself and clothes? I figured maybe a bit of both.

Lloyd announced, “Welcome to News, Culture and Some Jazz – love me some John Coltrane ha ha – and tonight we have a treat. I’m Lloyd Baker and our special guest this evening is creative writer extraordinaire Ann Nowak. Thank you for coming on the show.”

Ann nodded and said, “Thank you for inviting me. This room is a lot warmer than the ride over here. It’s starting to snow in Manhattan.”

“How true. Your newest book is a novel called ‘Warmed.’ You were writing about this room, I imagine, ha ha. The blurb of the novel states, ‘That look, that gleam, that toasted marshmallow of an eye gaze, bring Jacob Jackson and Katrina Kowalski to chance an accidental meeting in a public restroom located at an extremely famous music hall during a momentous performance which, fortunately, Jacob and Katrina miss; all on account of the touch of the finger on the other’s wrist. Then comes a barrage of words, the grabbing of fingers, the use of handcuffs. They have – and you have – been warmed.’ Wow. That’s a very provocative description. Is that a play on words, ‘You have been warmed’ instead of ‘You have been warned’?”

“Yes, it is. The whole novel is a play on words, a dance, if you will. Each moment in our lives is a warning and a warming and a war to the moment past.”

“Is that a fancy way of saying, ‘Life goes on’?”

She sighs. “I don’t know if it’s a fancy way of saying ‘life goes on’, which seems a bit trite, perhaps? First, there’s a warning, a shouting out, ‘Hey, this is about to happen!’ and then it happens and the sheer immediacy of it warms you in its honesty. It is there. It is not hiding. It will never hide. The two people, Jacob and Katrina, are suddenly and constantly bombarded with the realization that life is filled with warnings and warmings. They become handcuffed together – first mentally and then physically – as a result of their bare-bones attraction to the now.”

“So, this novel – from how I interpreted its message – says that any two people can have a physical bond simply because they are two human beings who happen to be in close proximity to each other. Isn’t that a bit presumptuous, to claim that two people – who are not attracted to each other and may not even know each other – will instantly connect because they’re… just there?”

“Maybe in the case of you and me that might be true but in the world of this novel, which is a construct of fiction and does not pertain to the rules of our non-fictional reality, the answer is yes.”

“Do you wish it could be true in our non-fictional reality?”

“I am more concerned with the fictional world I have created in which I have total control and own everybody within its pages. Words are energy. All concepts – any concept – is energy. Our minds have light energy. So do our hands. If I touch you with my words, your mind will feel it. If I touch you with my hand, your body will feel it. Our actions – each one of us – are gifts. Even if you just stand on a street corner and do nothing else but stand, you are giving a gift to whoever watches you. Some people are not aware of the impact of their actions and they make consistently wrong choices because of that. I am proud of my stories and novels. I make people think. I create good energy.”

He laughs. “Well, I know you created something positive to happen to me when you talked about touching my hand. Any chance of that happening?”

“Maybe I will write about that in a story and give it to you when you’re feeling hopeless but seriously I wouldn’t touch your hand now. I’m selective with whom I share my energy. I’m talking to you now in context with this interview but there are not many people with whom I would like to share intimate moments.”

“Wow. I guess you could say I just received a rejection slip.”

“I guess you could and it’s nothing personal – except for how everything’s personal – because I take seriously how I interact with people and I don’t want to create undue excess connections that would take up too much of my time I could spend communicating with a person who is my type. But when I am in contact with that person, I can be very involved. I’m still in the process of figuring out even more productive forms of communication. You could say I’m looking for a companion.”

“When you find that special someone, I would assume you’ll make beautiful literature together?”

She winked. “At least.”

A Visit chapter two

Georgette worked at Columbia University and lived close by, on Morningside Heights, with her husband, William Kennedy. She handled international affairs with teachers from all over the world. Her job, which seemed important and interesting, was not exactly clarified to me. She talked with professors but what was the extent of the conversations? Was she responsible for giving certain teachers positions in the university or was her role more like a hostess chatting about our country’s traditions compared with those of another? If the natural progression of her explanation about her job led her to divulge details about what she actually did, that would be fine; and it was fine if it did not.

William looked like he could have been in a rock band in Liverpool during the nineteen sixties. He was a professor at Columbia. He used to be a psychologist years ago but teaching was a more rewarding way of presenting his views because he was not limited to a specific patient’s case when advising the person on the best course of action. He could talk about the ideas of the major psychologists like Freud or Jung or Laing or Fromm within the context of a classroom. He also taught a humanities class, giving lectures on a wide range of subjects like the use of trauma in mainstream media and the comparisons between commercialism and impressionism. He told me that I could sit in on one of his lectures during my visit. I replied that the only thing about college I did not like was the tuition fee but the college vibe was something in which I was extremely interested.

Since my last six months dealing with Janet were filled with stress, Georgette wanted to make sure I was ready free and clear to get out of Oakland for a while. She asked, “Are you sure everything is okay? Remember when your next door neighbor kept hounding you for money?”

I answered, “He moved away to Wyoming.”

“That’s good. Do you remember that other friend of yours who used to own a restaurant and then became homeless and begged you to let him crash at your place? Did he also move to Wyoming?”

“No. He’s still around but he’s found another place to live. He’s squatting with a group of people, none of whom work and all they do is try to find ways of obtaining beer.”

“Sounds intriguing… but I hope not intriguing enough for you to want to get involved with them.”

“No. That stuff was in the past. Things are better now.”

“You say that and I want to believe you but you have to admit you’ve been through an awful lot during this year, having to deal with members of your birth family passing away like dominoes and then Eliza going unexpectedly. It was brave what you did for Janet but I would not have blamed you if you had decided never to be involved with any of those people ever again.”

“I couldn’t turn my back on the one person with whom I could count on to tell me the truth about what the relatives were like and the things they said. When I needed to borrow money she let me have it and never insisted on when I needed to pay her back. Of course, her fear of going in a living situation where everyone was a non-relative was a bit much for both of us to take but thankfully she saw reason before we would have had to 51/50 her.”

“Yes. I wasn’t in physical contact with her. I’m in New York so I wasn’t as stressed as you probably were.”

“I mean, I can understand missing one’s family but none of them were any kind of role models and there was always a new catastrophe every hour. I already told you about the feces and how I’d have to make sure they washed their hands before making dinner. Sometimes they already started cooking something before I could say anything.”

“I remember, unfortunately. You were not brought up like that. Our family was dysfunctional in a lot of ways but we managed as best we could and we didn’t have to worry about if we forgot to put on our clothes before going out to get the mail. When you told me about what your uncle Paul did that time, I was like… oh, it’s too much!”

I laughed. “I knew already what type of situation I could be getting into when I chose to have contact with them. I found myself able to observe everything like a scientist watching a strange patch of mold suddenly appearing where it shouldn’t grow but the mold keeps growing, getting taller and then, at six o’clock PM, it calls everyone to come eat dinner.”

“Haha! I’m glad you have a sense of humor about it. I don’t know if I would have. Anyway, let’s discuss everything you need so you can get on the airplane and have a good flight.”

She asked if I had my identification card. I answered yes. Now, I had it. Two years ago, I did not. I had not figured I had a problem. Before I had lost the card, I had one but it had expired several years earlier and I used the excuse that I was too lazy to renew it. So, if she spent time asking if I had luggage, clean clothes, deodorant and various other things that other people would not imagine being without, there were reasons. I was not as bad as the Goldmans but I had to admit I had a few of their behavior traits. Most of those traits had been conditioned out of me through diligence. There were a number of years when my parents, Michael and Amy Kauffman, had indulged in a few drinks too many and sometimes preferred to buy bottles of good alcohol when the choice was either to do that or pay the electric bill. Either Hal or Georgette would help financially during those times when I was a teenager. I had a mindset that life would always get worked out and no situation was unsolvable. Because of my attitude, I saw myself thinking that the situation with Janet was no big deal. The other part of me knew that at any moment I could have been caught by my manager and get evicted and that part of me did not dominate but I renewed my identification card and have not lost it since.

Another aspect of the trip was more metaphysical. I had visited New York ten years ago and the whole scene was magical. There were book stores selling books that I had a difficult time finding in California. There were mothers, with their families, who looked like fashion models. The location of the state was higher up than California and I felt higher in quality when I was there. A regular moment in New York could have been a movie scene in any other area. I was hoping to be reacquainted with some of the magic.

There were other details about New York that made me feel as if serendipity was merely a fancy name for little pleasures a person had a right to experience once in a while. In California, I felt self-conscious about my looks. I felt I looked more like Buddy Holly than Clark Gable. When I visited New York, I noticed women who looked like ultimate dream girls, holding hands with men who looked like me; or they were walking alone, staring at me with love gazes.

I loved how women looked in tucked-in shirts, especially with belted jeans. In California, I was lucky if I saw more than two women wear that style in one day. In New York, if I saw twenty women wear that style in an hour, it was a slow hour. Some women also wore tucked-in sweaters, like in those old Escada ads in magazines like Elle and Vogue, or the rarer tucked-in sweatshirt with pushed-up sleeves, worn by a woman who composed herself as if she did that every day and had not thought twice about it. In California, a tucked-in sweatshirt would be viewed as something as strange as a purple chicken in a marching band. I realized that life was filled with a wide assortment of many different people. That was why I did not run from panic the first time I noticed a member of the Goldman family do something very disturbing. They were behaving in their business as usual way.

The plane ride seemed longer than my first trip but maybe the length of duration was the same and my memory could no longer be an accurate guide to what happened. I spent most of the time listening to music on my cell phone until only two more hours before we landed and then only four more hours.

When I arrived finally and met Georgette and William at the airport, she looked older until I adjusted to the difference and then she seemed younger. William looked exactly the same. He had the appearance of one who always looks good, even in older age, and no amount of wrinkles would change that. He could have looked fifty at age twenty but he would continue to look fifty at age two hundred.

As we rode to their house, Georgette asked, “So, does any of this look familiar to you?”

I said, “I’m not sure. It’s now night time and I was last here during daylight hours. I remember the orange and yellow leaves on the trees, definitely not something I’d see in California.”

“Well, it’s been ten years. I wouldn’t expect this to be all up front in your memory.”

“This seems like a second date with someone, after the ice was broken and now I can focus on things with less anticipation.”

William smiled. “Oh, you’ll find something that will cause you to feel anticipation. I’ve lived here for over twenty years and I still haven’t gotten bored of it.”

I said, “I am curious if the bagels are really better over here or if that’s a myth.”

Georgette nodded. “You can definitely find out. There’s some great bagel places around here within walking distance from where we live. There’s Absolute Bagels on Broadway between 107th and 108th Street. There’s also cafes that serve bagels and coffee if you want to just sit and read like what the students at Columbia do.”

William winked. “So that’s why they aren’t attending any classes. They’re in cafes, sipping coffee and eating bagels.”

I said, “Maybe, but they’re probably reading one of your books.”

“Quite possibly. I’ll have to check my bookshelves and see if any of my books are missing. You can’t trust students these days, especially the ones who like to break into professors’ houses and steal their books.”

Georgette and I talked about how sad we felt when Hal died. He was a talented guitar player who knew a few big-name musicians in the San Francisco area. He never did much with his music other than make a few demo tapes back in the nineteen seventies, which were rejected by the major record companies. He worked at various jobs, making enough money to get by so he could afford a small run-down apartment in San Rafael, California. He did not do much in the way of going out and having fun. He allowed himself to eat at a restaurant once a week as his trip of adventure. He chose not to visit with his old high school friends, some of whom still played in small bands at the local pubs, because he thought that they were silly to believe they had a chance at the limelight this late in the game. They were over forty years old and should grow up, according to him. He acted as though he wanted to suppress any sense of youth he still felt.

Georgette explained that she still liked to sing and sometimes performed in a small cafe for friends when the place was closed for the evening to the general public. The owner was a good friend and arranged for her to sing for him and five of her friends during an informal half-hour concert.

She would bring her piano player, a co-worker at Columbia. She would sing jazz standards. She said, “I took to heart what happened to Hal and I told myself I wasn’t going to stop doing what I loved to do. I have no interest in touring or playing in a large nightclub but Freddy, the guy who owns the cafe, lets me sing for my friends and I love it. As long as you have the passion to do something, I say go for it.”

I said, “Maybe that’s what I’m feeling in New York, the energy of passion. Just from the little bit I’ve noticed so far, people seem to have an acknowledgment of their own existence. They may be more caught up in themselves than in noticing anyone around them but they have an awareness of self. That’s what I sense. In Antioch, the only stores are convenience stores and dollar stores. There’s a mall but there are no little hidden gems or places for anyone to go to and have fun. It’s all overweight families who work every minute and get tired and spend their leisure hours watching sports on television. The energy is almost non-existent. There’s no sense of individual purpose. If there’s any art in Antioch, it’s the art of waking up and facing another monotonous day.”

Georgette nodded. “That could be why most of the Goldmans were like they were and stayed that way until they died. Eliza had an electric keyboard, right? But you said she never played it? Maybe she had talent but there was no one who appreciated it and she decided to give up. Is that possible?”

“She played a few things for me and she was creative but, from what other members of the family told me, she was always a little bit off and never wanted to seriously pursue anything.”

“We were lucky. Mom gave all of us piano lessons and dad exposed us to good books. We had the choice to pursue art. I think that the Goldmans might have benefited from being exposed to more art.”

“I could answer that but it would take too long.”

We all laughed. Finally, we made it to their house. After the car was parked and we went inside, William said, “That wasn’t such a bad ride.”

I said, “Not at all. You have a nice place here.”

He nodded. “Feel free to look at whichever books seem to your liking. As you can tell, I’m a book junkie.”

“You and me both.”

He took a book from the shelf and handed it to me. He said, “I don’t know if your literary tastes run towards the surreal but I definitely recommend her. I’ve met her and she comes on campus occasionally. I think she lives around here. Check it out.”

The book was called Energy Mirrors and the writer was Ann Nowak. Her picture was on the back cover. I noticed she was wearing a button shirt tucked into belted trousers with her shirt sleeves rolled up. She was good looking and dressed in a great outfit. The title Energy Mirrors was definitely interesting. I sensed that she was going to be my new favorite author. I was a believer in how energy and change were key components to the creation of the universe. Seemingly, an energy mirror was an energy source that reflected an identical or similar energy source. I let my imagination run wild by thinking that Ann Nowak was the energy mirror to people like me who were attracted to her style. When I read what the stories were about, I was amazed at how correct I was. Each story was about how fate intervenes in people’s lives, causing couples to meet, sometimes on agreeable terms and sometimes violently. I looked at the writing. I was tired from my long trip and did not want to delve too deeply into the stories until tomorrow, but I could immediately tell that she crafted her literature as attractively as she crafted her appearance. I said, “Thanks for sharing this, William.”

He smiled. “You’re welcome. Maybe I could also arrange for you to meet her.”

A Visit chapter one

Visiting New York was a long-overdue treat. After spending the last six months in a day-to-day situation of high risk, in my apartment in Oakland, California, I could now breathe in the air of relative relief.

The situation began longer than six months ago but that was the amount of time when circumstances culminated into a specific dilemma. The root of the problem flower was my birth family. If I had not been born to the underage Eliza Goldman but, instead, to the more stable Kauffmans whom I considered my real family, none of what I am reporting would have come to pass. However, the complicated situation had developed from a more concise essence.

Simply, the last six months had been spent with me helping my blood cousin, Janet Goldman, by letting her live in my apartment with me. I would not have done a similar deed if I had to do so for any of the other Goldmans.

Janet was the one relative whom I considered not only a real family member but also a great friend. She had her problems – and no member of the Goldmans was without many – but she also had the intelligence to assess her situation. She was obese but she did not pretend that three hundred and fifty pounds was not overweight. She did not know how to cook her own meals but she knew how to order food from a local restaurant when her father did not return home to cook. She knew that smoking cigarettes could wreck havoc on one’s health and cause the smoke detector to beep constantly. Other members of the family were not aware of those things. Everything from feces on the living room floor and walking around nude when guests visited to running out in the middle of heavy traffic and getting hit by a car to boasts about sexual conquests with other family members, they had first-hand knowledge of it. I did not grow up with them, in a household where hygiene and etiquette and sanity were totally dismissed. My cousin became caught in a predicament that resulted in what happened during the last six months.

The Goldman siblings consisted of Paul, who was married to Lily – both parents to Janet – and my mother Eliza and their sister Veronica. Their parents, Ernest and Mimi, died long ago so I knew them from stories only, told mostly by Paul. I had been in the health care system, living with Michael and Amy Kauffman, and their children Hal and Georgette, because Ernest and Mimi would not allow me to be a part of their family unless Eliza allowed them to adopt me and she would be my sister. Eliza figured that the best course of action would be to put me in foster care.

If not for a friend of mine, Howard Houston, I may never had resolved contacting the Goldmans. However, he made a good point when he said, “The root of all things spiritual, according to any religious doctrine, starts with the mother.”

I replied, “But Amy Kauffman is my mother.”

Howard told me that my life would become happier if I gave Eliza Goldman the benefit of the doubt, even if the stories I heard about her family were true. I would bring some joy back in her life by meeting her again. He gave me several hundred dollars as incentive, some of which was for transportation costs, so I relented.

Howard and I searched in various ways for information on where she was located. Finally, after a couple of phone calls and arrangements made, my seeing her felt less like gold and more like tar, the nicotine kind. Aside from her constant cigarette smoking, her dishes were piled up from what seemed like years and her television set was always on in her living room, though she spent most of her time sleeping in her bedroom.

Paul and his family lived a block away from her. As to how his daughter and him could fit in the same room together was a wonder but Paul’s wife, Lily, managed to stay slim. She did not eat as much as Paul or Janet, probably because Paul usually cooked dinner right after using the restroom and forgetting to wash his hands. I noticed he would drop a steak on the floor before picking it up, apologizing and cooking it. I would not be surprised if half of his body weight was due to dirt stored instead of fat.

Veronica was a clean freak. She was not as slim as Lily but neither was she as heavy as Paul and Janet. She was approximately the size of Eliza, with some curve to the belly but still looking healthy enough. Of the times I visited either Eliza or Paul’s family, Veronica stayed away except for once when she visited my mother and I happened to be there. She was supposed to be the mean one, giving insults and usually forgetting to take her medication, so I figured I was not missing much if I saw less of her.

Even if there were times during my visits when I was irritated at Paul’s asking constantly for glasses of water when he had a full glass on a table right by his arm or Eliza’s wanting me to go to the smoke shop so I could buy her a carton of cigarettes, I felt a sense of reconciliation with them. I never did feel totally like I was a part of the family again but that was because I chose to regard the Kauffmans as my family but I was not displeased with the Goldman’s assessment that the last piece of the family puzzle had been found.

Several years later, the first fatal tragedy came. Veronica died after a slow battle with cancer even though she had switched from eating conventional store-bought products to organic. The other Goldmans were in favor of canned raviolis and cheap soda and no salads. They were afraid that organic food would result in their fatalities. Six months later, Paul’s wife, Lily, died from a heart aneurysm. Paul freaked out and decided he would live with Eliza and bring Janet with him. Eliza did not say no, especially after she had lived at his house years ago when she was at her most manic, but she was less than happy about it.

She lived in subsidized housing and the rules stipulated she could have guests as long as the word guest was not a euphemism for housemate. In other words, if the manager of the building noticed an unfamiliar person sneaking often in an apartment late at night, there was a problem. Cousin Janet preferred staying indoors and watching movies so her situation was easy enough for Eliza to handle. Paul could not sit down for any length of time. He was afraid he would die if he was not constantly on the move. He went in and out of Eliza’s apartment as much as five times an hour and he was not too careful of closing her door quietly. She received eventually a written notice of warning from the manager. One day before she was going to make him leave for good, a friend of Paul’s arrived at her door and said that Paul got hit by a truck and was being rushed to the hospital.

Paul suffered brain injury from the accident. Eliza realized she had the opportunity to make Paul a ward of the state. She was not quite as concerned about Janet’s situation yet but Eliza knew Janet would need to leave eventually. There was the possibility that something could happen to Eliza.

Janet was under the impression the city of Antioch would find a low-income apartment for Paul and her. She was not aware that Paul had not paid the lot fee for his space where his mobile home was in the trailer park. He skipped six or seven payments before he had impulsively decided to stay with Eliza. He had used the excuse he was grief-stricken from his wife’s passing and needed to be around family but there was a possibility he received notice to vacate the premises. He was never exactly forthcoming with whole truths about anything financial.

He stayed in the hospital for one month before he died from an operation on his stomach which was an independent problem from what happened during the accident. The list of complications concerning his body were too long to list. In my opinion, he knew he was not going back to Eliza’s apartment and his wife was not coming back to life so he allowed himself to let the breaking down process begin. He had probably wandered out in traffic that day so he could let fate take its course.

Even if his actions were often irrational and he caused more problems than solutions, he had a sense of what he considered goals to achieve. My mother never strove to do anything other than leave on the television and smoke.

One day, while I was at home in Oakland, I received a phone call from Eliza. She said she needed my help getting her apartment in top-notch condition for the housing inspectors. She had one week in which the place had to be totally clean. When Veronica was alive, she would visit Eliza and she insisted the two of them clean the apartment. After Veronica died, Eliza made no effort whatsoever to do any type of cleaning. I had not visited her shortly after Paul died because she smoked even more cigarettes than usual and smoke was thicker than blood; too thick.

I agreed to help but I attributed my choice to do so on temporary insanity. I knew she had a messy place but, when I arrived to assess the mess, the place looked overwhelmingly bad, I knew there was no way I could get it even one-tenth clean but I said I would see what I could do. Eliza would be no help. Janet could have done some cleaning if she wanted to do so but she told me she hoped Eliza would fail. She blamed my mother for telling Paul he had to leave, which caused him to have the accident. If the only way she could get revenge was to sit quietly and watch Eliza panic over the condition of her place, she would gladly do that.

The plan was for me to stay over for the week, do some work, watch television at night, perhaps buy a pizza or fried chicken as incentive to stay and work. That happened for two days. During that time, Janet and I could not stop coughing and I was feeling especially weak. I cleaned the basic garbage from the rooms and did the tons of dishes in her kitchen but that was all I could do. My energy was completely sapped. Add the Antioch heat, the not-so-great food choices and the interest level of conversation with my mother which was not at all, I had to leave. I asked Janet if she wanted to stay for a while at my apartment and she said yes.

When I told Eliza that Janet and I were leaving, she smiled and said, “Okay, honey. Thank you for coming over. Take care.”

I was puzzled by her reaction but not unhappy about it. Then, I figured she had been more concerned about the manager discovering Janet was staying there than if cockroaches were staying there. I had voluntarily taken care of a bigger problem.

The rules at my place concerning guests were stricter than at Eliza’s. I was allowed five overnight guests a month and anything beyond that would entail a fee. I was not about to pay any fee and I was not certain how long she would stay. I figured maybe a full week or two. Janet needed to be in a smoke free environment for the moment. Since she was comfortable staying indoors anyway, the manager would not guess she was there.

One week after she was at my apartment, the manager of Eliza’s hotel called me to say that Eliza died. The inspector found her body lying in bed, as if in a position to watch television but instead watching the spirit world. Her body seemed to be at peace; When I heard the news, I was more concerned about Janet’s situation than anything else.

After the phone call was over, I told her the news. She said, “That’s too bad. She could have stopped smoking.”

I said, “There was a lingering energy of death that I felt even while we were there when I tried to clean her place.”

“You did all that you could do. Nobody could have gotten that place clean. I hate to say it, Patrick, but I’m sort of glad she died. She wasn’t very nice to me when I stayed with her.”

“How did she treat you?”

“I felt like a slave. She had me go to the store for her because she always ran out of cigarettes. I’d go but, when I came back, she had me go again to get matches. I asked her why she waited until I came back and why didn’t she mention the matches the first time and she said she didn’t know. She was stupid.”

I nodded. “She did the same thing to me a few times.”

“Also, when she asked me to paint the walls of her living room and I said I didn’t want to do that, she told me that I was lazy and a fat jerk.”

“Wow. That’s a shame. Why did she want you to paint her living room?”

“I have no idea, Patrick. She had cans of green paint which she stored in her closet. She said she had that paint in there since the Nineteen Sixties and it was time to open the cans and put the paint to use.”

“That is even stranger than her usual strangeness. She didn’t live there in the Nineteen Sixties. She moved in that place around eight years ago.”

“I know.”

“Even if there was any reason for you to paint her place, there’s no way to do it with all the junk in it.”

“She wanted me to put everything – the junk, the furniture, everything – outside on her little porch while I painted.”

“That porch is just big enough for two people to stand on without squeezing together. There’s no way anyone could put her stuff out there.”

“I know.”

“Also, why green?”

“She said green was the color of broccoli.”

“She never ate any vegetables. Why would she talk about the color of broccoli? That is beyond any normality.”

She shook her head. “Patrick, I’m just glad I don’t have to stay there with her and that craziness any longer.”

“I don’t blame you. Did any of them think about teaching you about survival skills? Did they think you’d be at home forever?”

“My dad said he was looking for another place for us to live because he was tired of paying the rent at the trailer park. I asked him if he was going to sell the mobile home and he said he would give it to a friend of his, Christopher.”

“He was just going to give it away? I mean, I can understand not wanting to pay those fees but he owned that home. He could have sold it and used that money to rent a regular apartment.”

“He wasn’t thinking right. Mom had died and he just wanted out of there. He said someone else could handle cleaning up the place and dealing with the manager.”

“So, he figured a man named Christopher was the answer? Who was he?”

“Christopher was a patient at my dad’s dialysis center. He told my dad he owned a lot of real estate. Whenever I saw him, his jeans were dirty and his shirt looked like a snot rag.”

“Sounds like he obtained all that property by people giving it to him.”

“I know. I miss my dad but he was crazy.”

“Well, I need to get some Vodka and cool my engines and think about all this. I hope you won’t mind.”

“No. Go ahead.”

For the next six months, she stayed at my apartment with me. She received government disability payments and she was very willing to put that money towards rent and food. I was able to pay for good meals in restaurants. We both liked sushi and we both figured we needed to get healthy after our stay at Eliza’s House of Death. We continued coughing and feeling drained for two whole months until finally we were feeling better.

The situation was working relatively well. I made sure that Janet went outside at least once a week on a neighborhood walk with me so she was not always indoors. The time slipped by until I had eventually received a notice from my manager informing me I was breaking the rules of the lease agreement by having a boarder. I could have explained the situation and how Janet was just a long-term temporary guest but, instead, I asked my sister for help.

My sister, Georgette Kauffman, lived in New York. Our brother Hal died two years ago and our parents, the Kauffmans, had died fifteen years ago. Georgette was able to find a group home for Janet. I breathed a sigh of relief when the situation was over. Georgette arranged for me to visit her and her husband, my brother-in-law William Kennedy, for two weeks. The trip was meant as a reward for my having gone beyond the normal call of duty for a family member. As far as I was concerned, I felt more like I had won a contest.

Meet Me For Eternity chapter one

He was worried he would not make the trip to his house in time to avoid the rain. So far, everything was going against him. He had finished talking with his uncle and the uncle’s lawyer about money that proved not to exist. The point of the meeting was for Red to pick up his share of an inheritance. That was what he was told by his uncle, Bob, on the phone yesterday during a frantic conversation amounting to how Red had to be at the law offices of Bergman, Thomas, Brown and Hawke at noon exactly tomorrow. Red knew tomorrow was supposed to have rain and not just a little but. He had no umbrella and he could not buy one until the day after tomorrow when he got paid but Bob said he would give Red an umbrella when they met with Eli Bergman and Ethan Thomas to go over fine details. Now, as he was walking quickly, hoping the sky would behave just long enough for Red to be indoors, he thought about how he should have known his uncle was very good at screwing things up.