Keith and Brenda watched as the police car drove away with Tamara. As soon as the car turned a corner and was out of sight, Brenda sighed and looked desperately up at Keith.
“Keith, I need a hug,” Brenda said, as tears starting to run down her face. He hugged her and the two neighbors stayed in a tight embrace for over a minute.
When Brenda finally let go of Keith she asked, “Keith, can you come over to my house for coffee and maybe some pie or cookies?”
“I’m not working this afternoon. I’d be glad to come over. I think you need someone to talk to, my dear lady,” he answered.
“You couldn’t be more right about that,” Brenda said while letting out a huge sigh of relief.
Brenda owned a beautiful house in the Norwood Flats area of Winnipeg. She was now the sole owner of Brenda’s Cleaning Service. She had contracts with many major business offices in the city as well as having a solid base of residential clients. Brenda ran a successful janitorial service business that was known for its efficiency, reliability and charging reasonable and affordable prices for services rendered.
Before she set up her own janitorial company, Brenda had been a very successful and respected grade six teacher up until her last teaching assignment. During this time, Brenda was hit with a bombardment of both personal and professional crises. Her father had recently passed away after a long battle with prostate cancer and shortly after, the brother that Brenda felt the closest to was killed in a car accident by an impaired driver. That year the school that she worked at underwent a change of administration. Brenda now had to adjust to two administrators who had both decided that Brenda’s performance as a teacher was now below the minimum standards.
This series of crises, all coming together around the same time period, eventually pushed Brenda over the edge.
Things came to head on the day that one of Brenda’s colleagues found her in the staff shower room trying to hang yourself. A one -month compulsory hospitalization in a psychiatric ward, followed by two years of staying at home collecting long-term disability benefits effectively ended Brenda Cameo’s teaching career.
Episode Seventeen of Infinite Realities:
“I can’t okay you for spending the next two years as a writer Rick. My supervisor, the plan administrator would never go for it. In your rehabilitation plan he will want to see some kind of a conventional job. There’s too little money to be made in writing. Not every writer is going to have the success of a Stephen King. Most writers don’t even make enough money to cover their writing expenses,” Michael said.
“I figured you’d say that, but that’s all right. I have a Plan B,” Rick said.
“Will it provide you with a liveable income?”
“Yeah, it should.”
“Okay, tell me all about your alternate gig.”
“I’ll be a substitute teacher by day and a writer at night.”
“Now there’s a plan that’s feasible. I can work with that and I think I can sell it to the plan administrator.”
“I have another appointment to get to Rick. I’ll have to close off our meeting now. I’ll phone you to set up another appointment as soon as I get a chance to talk to my supervisor about your proposal,” Michael said as he was closing the cover on his metal briefcase.
“I’ll be looking forward to your call. It was a pleasure meeting you Michael. I’m sorry about giving you a hard time.”
“Don’t worry about it Rick. This was mild compared to the grief I get from some of my clients.”
As soon as Michael Reeves left David retrieved his tablet and was looking forward to getting back to reading The Devil’s Knot. When he picket the tablet up he heard a sound alert notifying him that he had an incoming text message. David selected the text message and began to read it.
“Hi, David. I must apologize for not introducing myself. My name is Darren Ross and I work for Infinite Realities Incorporated. I have been assigned to be your personal coach, mentor and advocate. In short, I am available twenty-four hours a day seven days a week, including holidays, to assist you with the operation of your amazing new piece of technology. In essence I am your customer support. What are you planning to do next with your tablet, David?”
David texted back:
I am going to continue reading The Devil’s Knot without any further disturbance.
Darren texted back:
That’s wonderful David. A man who loves to read. I want to greatly enhance your reading experience. I don’t want you to read about Damien Echols. I want you to be in the courtroom with Damien as he hears the judge tell him that he has been found guilty and will be sentenced to death by lethal injection. You will feel every emotion that Damien is feeling.
Episode Sixteen of Infinite Realities:
“What are your books about?” asked the industrial psychologist.
“Nothing- and everything,” Rick said.
“That doesn’t make sense. What do you mean by nothing and everything?”
“That’s a good question,” Rick began. “I’m not sure that I completely understand the writing process. Especially mine. I guess it could be described as some form of stream of consciousness writing like James Joyce used in The Portrait of a the Artist as a Young Man.
I find it very difficult to envision or to plan out my books before I write them. I suppose I use the fly by the seat of my pants approach. I am definitely not a plotter nor a planner. On most days I have a burning desire to write something. I have a great need to spill out the ideas that are in my head on any given day. I like to get up early in the morning around four or five AM. I have my Frosted Flakes and coffee for breakfast and then I sit down at my word processor and begin to write. I usually find it to be a very enjoyable experience. I find it to be more efficacious for my mental health than talking to my therapist. No offense to my psychiatrist. I believe that she sincerely wants to help me put my fragmented psyche back together and to get me back to work.
In my opinion writing is much like talking to yourself. The writer pulls down to earth some of the fascinating ideas that are buzzing around in the universe and transfers them to paper as best as he can. The hard work comes when you get near the end of the first draft. That’s when I try to find some organic unity in what I have written. I look for a unifying theme and start the painful process of deciding what to keep and what to throw out. Sometimes I have to give up the whole novel if I find that there isn’t anything that I can do to save it.”
“That sounds like hard work,” said Michael who at one time had aspirations of writing his own novel.
Episode Fifteen of Infinite Realities:
“I need to get to know you a bit Rick seeing as we’re going to be working together,” Mike said.
“Working together on what?” Rick asked.
“On you. Your employment situation. What you plan to do with the next three years before you retire. Are you planning to go back to teaching?”
“Not if I can help it.”
“So what do you plan to do? You can’t stay on disability until you retire.”
“Your group insurance plan won’t allow it.”
“But I like working on nothing all day as the song says.”
“Takin’ Care of Business by Bachman-Turner Overdrive,” Michael noted.
“That songs a little before your time isn’t it?” Rick asked.
“I listen to my father’s old records. You guys had much better music to listen to than my generation does.”
“That song was by The Who,” Rick said with a bit of a smirk.
“Okay Rick. Enough joking around. Let’s get serious and examine your options.”
“How can I do that? I’m crazy,”Rick said still enjoying his little game.
“Your doctor doesn’t say you’re crazy, just depressed. And you don’t appear to be that depressed right now.” Michael said. His tone of voice was now displaying a hint of annoyance.
“How’s your coffee?” Rick asked.
“It’s perfect. So if you don’t plan to teach what do you want to do?”
“I want to write books. I’ve actually started a couple already,” Rick answered.
Episode Thirteen of Infinite Realities:
Rick had certainly enjoyed the new adventures that he was having with his new tablet, but it was time that he got back to the real world or his life as he used to know it. He poured himself a cup of Folger’s coffee topped up with his favourite brand and flavor of coffee creamer. Rick added a generous amount of International Delight Southern Pecan along with two Sugar Twin packets to his coffee. He liked his coffee sweet and chuckled to himself. That’s part of the reason you are so big Rick. You can never stick to a diet. You like your creature comforts too much.
Rick picked up his tablet and to his delight found that all his favorite Kindle book downloads were on his new tablet. At present Rick could choose among about fifty different titles. He scrolled down his collection to see what he would like to read now. The Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt caught his attention. This book is a true crime story about three young men who were found guilty of murdering three little boys. The accused were believed to belong to some kind of satanic cult. Rick had just started reading the first chapter of the book. Only a few books could entirely grab Rick’s attention but this was one of them. Just as he found the page that he had last read his phone began to ring. Rick put his tablet down and said, “Damn. What now? It should be illegal to disturb someone while they are reading.”
Rick reluctantly picked up the phone.
“Is this Rick Chandler?” asked the caller.
“Yes, speaking.” Rick was now trying to hide his annoyance about being taken away from the book that he was reading.
“Hi Rick. This is Michael Reeves. I’m an industrial psychologist and your insurance provider, Canada Life, assigned you to my case load. Are you free to see me this morning?”
“Yes, I’m free. Where do you want to meet?”
“I could come to your place. What time would be good for you?”
“You can come right now if you’re in the area.”
“That sounds great. I should be at your place in about twenty minutes.”
“I’ll be waiting for you. I’ll have a fresh pot of coffee waiting for you.”
Chapter One Hundred Four:
Jack finally cleared off a spot on Mike O’Grady’s ragged and well- worn easy chair. This chair has seen a lot of mileage and probably hasn’t been cleaned since Mike bought it at a local flea market many years ago.
“So, how you been Jack?” asked Mike as he sat on an old broken down couch that appeared to be on a slant.
“I’ve been better,” said Jack. “And you?”
“I get by. I should have taken better care of myself when I was younger. Of course, back then, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about it. Now I’m paying the price. I’m fat, I smoke too much and I’m pretty crippled up with arthritis. Fortunately, I collect a disability cheque every month. I make a little extra cash fixing up people’s computers and doing a little photography on the side. The government doesn’t know about this. If they did they would either reduce my pension or take it away altogether.”
Mike took a cigarette out of his pack. “Other than that I can’t complain. Mike started a laugh that soon turned into an ugly coughing spell.
“So has life been kicking you around a bit too?” asked Mike. He was barely able to catch his breath long enough to get the words out.
The Richard’s two dogs were named Skippy and Scruffy. Both were rescue dogs. Skippy was a Belgian Shepherd cross and Scruffy was some type of Blue Merle Border Collie cross. All of the Richards loved animals. When Richard and Susan were still together they had three animals. Besides the two dogs the family had an orange tabby cat named Crush, named after the soft drink. When the family unit split up they decided that John would take the two dogs and Susan and the kids would keep the cat. The two dogs loved car rides but this was going to be a long trip for them.
John and his two teenagers had a lot to catch up since the last time they’d been together which was Christmas time. Last Christmas Susan and the two kids drove to Winnipeg, Manitoba to spend about a week with their dad. Even though they were in the process of getting a divorce and had been separated for quite some time John asked Susan if she wanted to join them for the Christmas holidays and she agreed. Neither John nor Susan were dating anyone exclusively at this time and deep down they still did like each other.
The Richard’s break-up was due to numerous factors. The main area of disagreement between the couple was John’s growing interest in his writing.
When John first started writing it had just been a hobby for him. John needed to go on long term disability after his last full time teaching assignment. John loved to teach but he disliked enforcing heavy discipline and just got bored and frustrated by the countless extra duties teachers were expected to do as part of their job description. After several years of of working in this environment John simply couldn’t take the pressure any more. John would be far more suited to being a university professor than working as a public school teacher.
When John first went on disability he found that he had hours of free time each day that he had never had before. John decided to take up hobbies to pass his time and one of theses was writing fiction. John would get up early in the morning and put in about three hours at his word processor. He found that he enjoyed both the solitude of the early morning hours as well as the joy of writing. The problem began when John Richards started to get obsessive about his writing.