“You know what I feel like doing after lunch?” Misty asked after lighting up her DuMaurier cigarette.
“No, what would you like to do next Misty?” Rick asked.
“Look out the window. Can you see how beautiful it is outside? It’s not too cold and it’s snowing lightly. We could walk over to Cornation Park and check out the library. I want to see if they have the latest issue of Rolling Stone,” Misty said tapping the ash off her cigarette.
“Rolling Stone? That’s my favorite magazine. I think every book I’ve read lately I heard about through Rolling Stone. I always read their record reviews to check if there are any good LPs I should buy. Going for a walk sounds like a great idea. We’ll go as soon as we finish our cigarettes. I’m going to leave Marlene a tip,” Rick said.
“I’ll need to see the bill to see how much my burger, onion rings and Coke came to,” Misty said.
“You won’t need to check the bill. Lunch is on me. I don’t get out much these days and I don’t get to take a beautiful young woman out every day,”
Misty blushed and thanked Rick.
Rick and Misty said goodbye to Marlene as they put on their winter clothing. The sun was shining brightly and the snow was falling gently. Misty tied a bright red scarf around her neck. She was wearing a forest green parka that caused Rick to realize that Christmas would soon be upon them.
Misty offered her right hand to Rick after she put on her red finger gloves. The happy couple held hands and started walking down St. Mary’s Road. After a few minutes had passed Misty put her arm around Rick’s waist. A black car pulled up beside them and a scruffy looking young man rolled down his window and said, “You work fast Misty. It didn’t take you long to get over me now did it?”
“Ah, shut up Jim, you greaser,” Mindy shot back.
“Hey man. Be careful you don’t catch anything from your new girlfriend. Believe me she’s been around.” After saying this Jim pulled away and drove down the street.
Misty turned red and started to cry. Rick held her body tightly and wiped the tears from her eyes with a Kleenex.
Wally took a long deep drag off his cigarette and turned toward Garry. “Okay, I can see that you obviously took a royal shit kicking. That explains why you’re in the hospital but it doesn’t explain why you’re in the psych ward.”
Garry stared at the ground and focused on the yellow and orange leaves on the ground. ”Well, obviously they think I’m crazy.”
“So what would give them that idea?” Wally asked.
“The doctors and nurses didn’t believe me when I told them what I saw on the bus.”
“So, what did you see?”
“I saw several people on the bus that had reptilian features.”
“You mean like snakes and alligators?”
“No, their heads were shaped more like flesh eating dinosaurs like T-Rex and Allosaurus.”
“I think I watched a documentary about people who could change their appearances back and forth from people to dinosaurs.”
“I saw that show too. What they were saying was true, Wally.”
“Have you ever seen these reptilian creatures before the bus ride?
“I see them practically everywhere I go. Even at home. My parents both have this power to change their appearance from human to reptilian. At least my dad does. My mother passed away about a year ago.”
“Sorry about your mother. Wow. That’s a far out story man. No wonder the doctors and nurses didn’t believe you
“So that’s my story? What’s yours?”
“Wally took a deep drag from his cigarette. “I tried to run away from the last group home I was at.”
“So why did you leave?” Garry asked as he ground his finished cigarette into the ground with his boot.
Wally laughed. “It would take about an hour and three or four more cigarettes to tell you.”
“That bad, eh?”
‘Worse, they run the place like a jail. It’s all about rules, regulation and control of the unit. In short, all the things I hate. I value my personal freedom and privacy above everything else.”
“So how did you get to the hospital?”
“The police found me wandering the streets so they picked me up. I hadn’t taken my meds in a few days so I was starting to hallucinate a lot and was pretty disoriented,” Wally explained.
“When you were telling your story about your parents it reminded me that I have some weird relatives, too. Especially my grandfather.”
“What’s weird about your grandfather?” Garry asked. “Do you want another cigarette?”
“Well my grandfather has quite the story. It easily rivals yours about the reptilian creatures.”. “Now you got me hooked. What’s his story?”
“Where shall I start?’ Wally wondered out loud.
“Up until about two years ago my grandfather worked for the provincial government in B. C.
He was a scientific researcher for The Department of Fisheries. That was Grandpa’s official title anyway.”
“What was your Grandpa’s name? I might have heard of him. My father is a marine biology professor at UBC and he may have mentioned your grandpa’s name.” Garry said.
Grandpa’s name is Winston Stanfield. His parents named him after Winston Churchill. His full name was Winston Churchill Standfield. Most people who know him think that he’s crazy, or if they have a gentler nature, they would say that he is eccentric.
Personally, I think he is the coolest guy around. He definitely marches to his own drummer and refuses to be confined by anybody’s rules. He had a diverse, eclectic set of interests and past times. If he were born about a century earlier he would have been admired as a rugged individualist or perhaps, a Renaissance man. He is the last person that should have been working for the government.”
“Wow, your grandfather sounds like quite a fascinating individual,” Garry interjected.
“A character would probably be a better choice of words. Gramps is like a character in a novel. What can I say? He’s my hero. I haven’t told you yet that Gramps was a Vietnam Vet and both a wrestler and an independent wrestling promoter.
“Wow, you could write a book about this guy?” Garry said.
“Believe me. I plan to someday.”
“I want to hear more about your grandfather another time but I see that the nurse is signalling for us to come inside,” Garry said.
“Yeah, next time you want to go for a smoke come find me in my room, 109. I think that we will be having some interesting conversations,” Wally replied.
Garry walked back to his room glad that he had made a friend. He sat alone in his room for a few minutes pondering his conversation with Wally.
Chapter One Hundred Sixty-Six:
“I know how you feel. I miss the kids over the summer months when they are with you,” said Susan. “It makes it a difficult situation for both of us.”
“You’ve changed over the last year, John. I can no longer push you around. Don’t take this the wrong way, but the old John I knew was kind of wimpy. You seem surer of yourself, more in charge somehow. I like the new John much better.”
“Thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment. I tend to agree with you. Before this expedition I kind of let people and circumstances walk all over me. I was much too passive. I had goals and dreams but I didn’t have the courage to carry them out. The truth is that I didn’t like the old John very much myself. I was too sensitive, too introspective and full of self -pity. I really didn’t blame you for divorcing me.”
“I don’t want you to give up your sensitive and caring personality John. I just wanted to see you show yourself as strong and capable of handling life,” said Susan.
“I have to admit that my own way of coping was escape, mainly through my writing. When I write I become someone else. The characters in my novels are strong and heroic, the way I would like to be. Also, when I write I can control other people and life and I got addicted to that feeling. I guess that I was living in my own fantasy world,”
“I don’t want you to give up your writing, John. I’ve read some of it. It’s very good. I just want you to spend less time writing and more time with me and the kids,” said Susan.
“I think I could do that,” said John with a hint of a smile crossing his face.
“John, I want us to try again.”
Chapter One Hundred Sixty-Five:
“I didn’t get a chance to tell you John, but I was terrified when I saw you dive into the lake to look for those two divers,” said Susan.
“It was probably not the smartest thing to do, but I reacted almost by instinct. I didn’t really think about how risky my actions were at the time. All I could think about was that two of our crew could be in serious trouble and that someone had to take immediate action. As I had once been trained to be a scuba diver I knew that I was the only one aboard the ship that could look for the two missing divers,” John explained.
“You can’t imagine how relieved I was when I saw you return to the surface. Those ten minutes when you were underwater seemed like the longest ten minutes of my life. I was afraid that I was going to lose you forever,” said Susan.
“You are starting to sound like you really care about me,” said John. “but you care about everybody. That you were worried about my safety shouldn’t surprise me. After all, we used to be husband and wife.”
“I’m starting to get thirsty, John,” said Susan.
“There’s a Tim Hortons along this trail. We should be there in about five minutes,” said John.
When John and Susan arrived at Tim Horton’s the restaurant was only half full of customers enjoying their coffee and doughnuts.
“What would you like Susan?” asked John. John had found them a booth near the back of the restaurant. Susan looked out at the natural beauty surrounding the lake.
“I need a large glass of cold water and then I’ll have a coffee with cream and sugar. I think I’ll have an apple fritter too. Can you order for us John? I need to use the washroom.”
“No problem,” said John.
When Susan Richards closed the door to the women’s washroom, she began to sob quietly.
I had no idea how much I missed that man. It feels so good to be spending time with him after all this time apart.
After she used the washroom and washed her tears away, Susan collected herself and walked over to their booth. John had already brought their order to their table. John had ordered the same thing as Susan had.
“What’s the matter? You look like you’ve been crying,” John said looking at the red in Susan’s eyes.
“I can’t hide it from you John. I just enjoyed our walk so much. Just being with you and talking to you filled me with so much joy. I don’t think I realized how unhappy I’ve been living in Winnipeg. This time with you also showed me how lonely I’ve been and how good it felt to be close to you,” said Susan reaching for a tissue to wipe another tear from her eye.
“It’s been hard for me too Susan. It’s been a very miserable time. The only season that I perk up a bit is during the summer when Ryan and Stephanie come to visit me.”
Chapter One Hundred Sixty-Four:
“Well, things may work out for Ryan and Monique. I’m happy about that. I really like Monique. I think that she’ll be good for Ryan,” said John.
The trail that they were walking on was covered with stones and loose branches. Susan stumbled and was about to fall over when John grabbed her and held onto her. It was almost an embrace and John remembered how good it felt to hold Susan close to him.
“Oh, I’m sorry John. I should have been watching where I was stepping,” said Susan. She was starting to blush. She, too, had missed the feeling of having John next to her. Both of them looked into each other’s eyes and held their gaze for over a minute. Neither one of them wanted to break the embrace but John let go of Susan, not wanting to show that he still had strong feelings for her.
They were both a bit flustered now and Susan thought that this would be a good time to continue their conversation.
“What do you think is going to happen with Stephanie and Ryan?” Susan asked. “I’ll bet that Stephanie will want to stay with you too. She won’t want to move away from Garry.”
“That is very likely but I don’t know what Garry has planned for his future,” said John.
The wind had picked up and it was starting to get a bit chilly. Susan forgot to bring a sweater along for the walk.
“John can I ask a big favor from you?”
“Sure, sweetheart,” said John immediately putting his hand over his mouth. “Sorry, that kind of slipped out. I guess old habits are hard to break.”
Susan laughed. “I thought that I was going to have to work up the courage to ask you the favor, but now I don’t feel so afraid. Sweetheart,eh? I always liked it when you called me that.”
“Really? Now you have me really curious. What’s the favor?” asked John.
“I want to borrow your windbreaker and snuggle up to you.”
John smiled and said, “My pleasure, honey,”
Chapter One Hundred Sixty –Three:
Blake Riley was sitting alone in a chair on the main deck of his ship. There was a refreshing breeze coming off the water and Blake was enjoying watching the beautiful scenery on the shore line. The boat was now passing the forested area of Lake Okanagan.
The natural beauty had put Blake into a thoughtful mood. He was starting to re-evaluate his whole life. He had come to the unsettling conclusion, that up to this point, he had lived his life very selfishly. It dawned on him that he didn’t have any real friends. For most of his life he had only made acquaintances with people that he thought could further his own ambitions. Yes, Blake had an impoverished upbringing. Yes, he had felt unwanted and had been abused by those close to him. He asked himself whether or not this was a good enough reason to turn his back on humanity and to live only for himself. Had his extravagant and hedonistic lifestyle brought him any real, lasting satisfaction? Blake concluded that it had not.
He started to think about the way he had mistreated Jack Kimberly. Now that he had a few days of getting to know Jack Kimberly, he found that he had enjoyed Jack’s company very much. Blake had never really experienced the pleasure of bonding with another human being.
Blake also started to think about Dr. Lionel Phelge. He felt honoured to be in the company of such a renowned academic and scientist. He felt grateful for the mutual respect that Lionel had shown him.
Blake Riley was filled with self –loathing when he caught himself coming up with schemes to get the two live Ogopogos away from the rest of the crew. He had enjoyed working as part of a team and working toward a common goal. Blake had determined that from this day forward he would live his life differently.