Chaos, A Novel by Ken David Stewart (Revised Version #1)
On April 16, 2016 Harold Peyton turned sixty-five. He was troubled by the realization that he was now officially a senior citizen. His beloved wife, Camilla had moved out his house on this very date April 16, 2015. Harold remained living in their old house that had done without renovations and repairs for at least a decade. Although a friend had encouraged him to find a new place to live, Harold was too deeply overwhelmed by his circumstances to change his living arrangements. His stepson, Jeff, had even asked Harold to come and stay with him and his family. Harold didn’t want to impose upon him and he didn’t want Jeff to know that he had started drinking alcohol again. He had eleven years of sobriety to his credit before he relapsed back into his disease of addiction. Harold started drinking again a few days after he and Camilla separated.
On a Friday morning Harold walked by the local Manitoba Liquor Commission. He had just finished going to the post office to mail in thank you notes to all the people who sent their condolences.
As soon as Harold opened the door to the liquor store and literally walked across the red carpet, Harold felt right at home. It was as if the last eleven years of his life had never happened. Harold decided to take a tour of the liquor store to check out all the different kind of alcohol on display. After about twenty minutes of exploring the store Harold decided upon the largest bottle of Jack Daniels that he could find. He walked out of the liquor store without the slightest feelings of guilt and shame.
Harold had now been retired for five years. He had been a high school English teacher for twenty-seven years. He was now receiving a CPP pension, a retired teacher’s pension and was about to start receiving Old Age Security Benefits.
Harold only returned to drinking alcohol for one year after his wife left him. After the one year was over Harold returned to his old Alcoholics Anonymous group and was welcomed back with open arms.
When he turned sixty-five Harold realized that he had to get back on his feet. One year of indulging in self-pity and substance abuse was long enough. As he gradually accumulated more sobriety his once brilliant mind had started to function again and he became very introspective. He began thinking about what he was going to do with the rest of his life.
After all, Harold was only in his mid sixties. He realized that he could possibly have twenty more years in store for himself.
Harold had kept physically fit before his drinking got out of control. He got back in the habit of going for a forty-five -minute bike ride each day. He also worked out at Shapes, his local gym, at least three times per week. When he started going back to Shapes he started with performing a resistance training circuit. Within a few months Harold was looking significantly better. By means of his weight training program Harold was starting to regain most of his youthful muscle definition. He was still approximately seventy pounds overweight according to his doctor’s Body Mass Index chart.
A good part of the problem was that Harold could not get himself motivated to learn how to cook healthy meals. While Harold and Camilla were together, his wife did the majority of the cooking. The only type of cooking that Harold enjoyed was barbequing using an old circular shaped charcoal barbeque. He was afraid of using the newer gas powered grills. Harold would barbeque hot dogs, hamburgers and steak practically every day during the summer. Occasionally he would put on his parka and barbeque outside during the winter months.
After Camilla moved out, Harold had to learn to fend for himself. He realized that he would have to eat something so he started to think of all the meals he could prepare for himself without having to cook. One morning Harold sat down and made a list of all the meals that he could make on his own. The list that Harold came up with included toast, various types of sandwiches, dry breakfast cereals, large bars of cheese, pizza pops, raw pepperoni sticks, hot dogs, raw fruits and vegetables. Spam and assorted canned foods.
Episode 3 of Chaos:
To Harold’s delight and with by going out for long, daily bike rides and working out with weights at Shapes gym, he was able to get his weight down to about two-hundred thirty-five pounds. About a year ago Harold went to his doctor for a complete physical and weighed in at three hundred ten pounds. This was a turning point for Harold. He had been avoiding looking at himself in the mirror for quite some time now. Harold felt too much shame to see his reflection in the mirror. Although his present weight was still above his ideal weight according to the body mass index chart that his doctor showed him, Harold felt much better about himself. He could now look at himself in the mirror without fear of embarrassment. In fact, Harold thought that he now looked good. Not only had he lost a great deal of body fat he had regained a significant amount of muscle mass. Harold was now very proud of himself. With hard work he had achieved a major life goal. He now had a spring in his step when he went out in public.
Episode 4 of Chaos
Although he was officially retired Harold had not stopped working completely. He continued to work three to four days per week as a substitute teacher. Harold enjoyed substitute teaching much more than full time teaching, as he now didn’t have extra work to take home with him in the evenings. Substitute teaching also got him out of the house several times per week. This helped alleviate Harold’s loneliness as it gave him somewhat of a social life as he had an opportunity to visit with other teachers during prep periods and at lunch times.
Fortunately, Harold was rarely bored. He had developed several hobbies during his teaching career and he now had more time to devote to them. Harold also picked up a couple of new hobbies after he retired. He had always enjoyed learning new things and developing new skills.
He had truly loved his estranged wife Camilla and believed that he could never again love a woman as much as he had loved her. Even so, he missed having female companionship. During one of his church’s weekly Bible studies Harold had met an attractive lady in her mid forties named Roxanne. They both felt a mutual attraction to each other and were soon going out for coffee after the Bible study had ended.
Episode 5 of Chaos:
Harold had a regular morning routine. On weekdays he would turn on his phone and wait for a call from the school division giving him a substitute teaching assignment for the day. Harold did not really want to accept an assignment today. He had just finished a three- day assignment teaching English at Murdoch MacKay Collegiate. Harold had a good time teaching there as the class was reading and discussing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. Although Harold had thoroughly enjoyed his time at Murdoch MacKay, he was getting older and felt like he needed a day off.
He felt guilty when he spent too many days away from his writing. Harold wrote fiction novels as a hobby and found that the writing process was very therapeutic for him. He decided that he would decline any teaching assignments for today and would spend the day working on his current work in progress, a novel titled Winter Dreams.
Harold’s morning routine seldom varied. He would get up and make a pot of Tim Horton’s coffee. Harold would then fill up a large glass with water. The glass that he used to wash down his medications was actually a large holder for flowers, like a vase, that he had purchased at Dollarama while taking his grandson there.
As he got older Harold was prescribed more and more medications by both his family doctor and his psychiatrist. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he was in his late teens. His psychiatrist prescribed a cocktail of antidepressants. While drinking his coffee and taking his meds Harold would listen to one of his many Holy Bible audiobooks.
Harold had been a Christian since his late twenties. When he first got saved he was really just buying fire insurance. Harold simply did not want to go to hell. For almost three decades he really didn’t have an intimate relationship with the Lord. When Harold was in his early fifties he was introduced to Charismatic and Pentecostal theology through a co-worker. Since then he had been baptised in the Holy Spirit and received some of the spiritual gifts, notably prophetic visions and words of knowledge.
After Harold finished his devotion time, he returned to his writing by checking out his recent chapter of Winter Dreams. He would look for anywhere that editing was needed and started to think where he would take the story’s plot from here. Harold had also made up a separate Word document where he would list his ideas for potential future scenes.
While Harold had just started his next chapter, he heard a lot of noise emanating from outside his house. He got up from his black office chair and looked out his living room window.
There was still snow on the ground and Harold could see a burly man push a young female out of white Ford 250 truck. The driver appeared to be in his early thirties and looked very intimidating. The next thing to be tossed out of the truck was a large blue hockey duffle bag. It landed on the snow and ice- covered ground with a loud thump.
Harold opened his front door when he heard the driver yelling obscenities at the girl. As the white truck pulled away Harold put on his Kodiak snow boots and stepped outside his house. He needed to see if the young woman needed any assistance. Harold helped the girl to her feet. She looked up at Harold, thanked him and began to cry. The young lady was wearing only a grey hoodie sweatshirt and a well- worn pair of blue jeans. Her hair was black and scraggly and the tears pouring out of her eyes caused her mascara to run. She was shivering from the cold.
“Would you like to come inside to warm up and join me for coffee or hot chocolate?”
He helped the girl through the door. The young lady was feeling sore from being pushed out of the truck and landing on the hard ice and snow -covered street. She was still shivering as it was unusually cold today and the girl didn’t have a winter coat to put on. Harold brought her duffle bag in. The bag was quite heavy but despite being sixty-five years old Harold was still very strong. He noticed a slight hint of body odor emanating from the girl. What really struck him was the thinness of the young lady’s face and her general emaciated presentation.
Harold noticed that the girl had several piercings, one through her left eyebrow and two piercings in her nose.
As it was rather warm in Harold’s house, the young female took off her dirty, grey hooded sweatshirt. Underneath she was wearing a black mid riff tee-shirt with Black Flag printed on it. Harold noticed that she also had a belly button piercing. She started to pull off her black boots revealing two different colored striped socks.
“I should introduce myself. My name is Harold, Harold Peyton. Would you like a cup of coffee or some hot chocolate?” Harold asked his guest. He thought that the girl would be attractive if she didn’t look so dishevelled and took more care with her personal hygiene. At this moment Harold pictured a very neglected and abused little elf.
“Oh, that would be awesome sir. I would actually prefer a hot chocolate if it’s not too much trouble for you.”
“That’s not a problem. By the way, what’s your name?” Harold asked.
“My real name is Whisper Willows, but my street name is Streak. I also use a few aliases whenever I need to.”
“I’m pleased to meet you, Whisper. Oh, by the way you don’t need to call me ‘sir’. Just Harold will be fine.”
“Did you see that guy push me out of the truck and throw my duffel bag in the snow?” Whisper asked.
“Yes, are you alright?” Harold asked with evident concern in his voice.
“Yes, I think so. Tony pushed me pretty hard out of the truck. I’ll probably be sore for awhile and have some nasty bruises,” Whisper answered after taking a sip of her hot chocolate.
“That’s probably true. Look, I know it’s none of my business, so you don’t have to tell me your life story,” Harold said.
“No, that’s not a problem,” Whisper said. “You let me in your house, Harold, and maybe saved my life, so I should be honest enough to tell you what all went down. First, I need to give you some background information about myself. as she stretched out and made herself more comfortable on Harold’s well worn orange and yellow patterned couch. Harold sat in his dark brown Lazy Boy chair and smoked his pipe as he listened to Whisper’s story.
“I guess my biggest problem right now is that I’m essentially homeless and don’t have any money. I’d like to get rid of my boyfriend Tony, but he needs me too much.”
“It sounds like you are having a very rough time of it right now,” Harold stated.
“Actually, my whole life has been a rough time, man. My father left when I was two years old, so I never really knew him. My mom and dad got married too young and the only reason that they got married was because Mom was pregnant with me. My parents never really wanted me. I was an accident.”
“Wow. That must really hurt,” Harold said as he tried to light his pipe.
“Yeah, I guess it does, but I’m tough. I can live through a lot and I still am. Every day’s a struggle. I’ve never really had anyone I could trust in my life.” Whisper’s eyes started to tear up.
“So what happened after your dad left?” Harold asked as he passed a box of Kleenex over to Whisper.
“The only way my mother knew how to cope was to turn to the bottle. Mom also got stoned on weed a lot. She also took several kinds of benzos and antidepressants that she got from her doctor. Mom was always good at scamming her doctors.”
“How could your mother look after you while she was so impaired?” Harold asked.
“She couldn’t take proper care of me, my brother or my sister. That’s why Child and Family Services took all her kids away and placed us all in different foster homes,” Whisper answered and then drank a bit of her hot chocolate.
“You sure make a good cup of hot chocolate, Harold. This is delicious.”
“It’s Tim Horton’s, dear. Only the best for you.”
“You have a very nice home, Harold. It’s a little cluttered and could use some cleaning, but, then again, this house is quite small,” Whisper observed. “I noticed that you have four bookshelves and possibly a couple of hundred books.”
“Actually, I have a lot more books than that. My eyesight is not as good as it used to be, so I now purchase all my books in the Kindle format. That way I can adjust the fonts and the brightness levels so that reading the text is comfortable for me,” Harold explained.
“You certainly are a well- read man,” Whisper observed.
“For sure. I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I also like listening to audiobooks when my eyes need a break.”
“You are right, though. This house is a bit too small, but it was even more cramped when my wife lived with me. We accumulated a lot of stuff over the years.”
“I’m sorry to hear that you and your wife are separated. How long has it been now?”
“Almost two years.”
“Are you still missing her?” Whisper asked moving a little closer to the front of the couch. Harold was a little uncomfortable with how Whisper made him feel. He wished that less of her skin was exposed. As much as he hated to admit it to himself, Harold did find this strange young woman in his house to be somewhat attractive. It couldn’t be a sexual attraction. That was ludicrous. After all, Harold was sixty-five years old and this girl was only twenty-two. He was not a dirty old man. There was something else going on.
“Yes, but it’s getting better with time. At certain times of the day I still get very sad and will start weeping. Sometimes an old song that we both loved will be playing on iTunes and that will stir up a deep emptiness within me.”
Harold got up from his easy chair and walked up to his living room window to look outside. He continued to talk to Whisper with his back toward her.
“I’ll be up front with you Whisper. I’m an alcoholic in recovery. I’ve only been sober a little past a year now. I got sober in Alcoholics Anonymous and recently received my one year of sobriety pin.” Harold didn’t know why he was sharing such personal information with a stranger.
“I would love to have a hot chocolate, Sir. What’s your name?” Whisper asked.
“My word, where did all my manners go? With all the excitement going on, I failed to recall that I haven’t as yet told you my name. It’s Harold, Harold Peyton.”
“Could I ask a big favour of you. Mr. Peyton?” Whisper asked sheepishly.
“Oh, you don’t have to call me Mr. Peyton. I’d like it very much if you just called me Harold. What would you like me to do as a favour to you?”
“I would like to take a shower and get myself cleaned up,” Whisper asked as her face reddened with embarrassment. “But I would like to drink my hot chocolate first if you don’t mind.”
“Of course, you can my dear,” Harold answered. Harold wondered why he had called Whisper ‘my dear’. After all he didn’t even know this girl yet.
“Did you bring a clean change of clothes to put on after you wash up?”
“Yes, I have some clean clothes in my duffle bag,” Whisper replied.
“I just asked in case you didn’t have a fresh change of clothes with you. I still have all my daughter’s clothes in a closet in her bedroom. You appear to be about the same size as she was and her clothes would probably fit you. Harold’s countenance suddenly looked very pained.
“You said ‘was’ Harold. What happened to your daughter?”
“Today is the first anniversary of Erica’s passing. While getting a ride home from a party her friend’s car had a head on collision. The driver of the other car was inebriated. Erica’s friend suffered severe injuries but survived. Unfortunately, my daughter did not survive the accident. As soon as he finished saying this, Harold Peyton sobbed loudly and his body began to shake uncontrollably.
“Sit down in your Lazy Boy, Harold. I’ll make myself a hot chocolate. Would you like something to drink too?” Whisper asked.
“Yes, I would like a cup of coffee if you don’t mind making a pot,” Harold replied starting to regain his composure.
“No problem. I see that you’ve got the good stuff, Tim Hortons. It should be ready in a few minutes.”
After setting up and turning on the percolator Whisper returned to the living room.
“I’m very sorry to hear about you losing your daughter. It must be very painful for you.”
“I know all about addiction myself, Harold. I’m hooked on crystal meth and opiates. I’ve also been diagnosed as having BPD.” Whisper said matter-of-factly.
“What’s BPD?” Harold asked. “I may have read something about it.”
“It’s a psychiatric disorder known as borderline personality disorder. It makes me act really crazy at times. I just thought that I’d warn you,” Whisper said.
Harold turned his head toward Whisper and looked her squarely in the eyes, “I’m shocked that you would tell me that.”
“Don’t be. I’m very straight up with people,” Whisper replied.
“Do you have a place to live right now?” Harold asked.
“Not really. I’ve kind of been homeless for the last couple of months. I just sort of couch surf.” Harold looked at all Whisper’s piercings and wondered if their installation caused her a lot of pain. Whisper’s’ midriff T-shirt was sleeveless and Harold observed a pentagram tattoo on Whisper’s right shoulder.
“What does couch surfing mean? Harold asked.
Whisper smiled and laughed, “Oh, you are an old man, aren’t you? It means that I stay for short periods of time, usually a few days, at other people’s places and usually sleep on the couch, or sometimes I sleep in my own sleeping bag.”
“It sounds like you’re living a very unstable life right now,” Harold observed. “How did you get addicted to crystal meth and opiates?”
“It all started in high school. I think I was around fifteen years old at the time. Crystal meth and opiates are not the first drugs I ever tried. I’m no angel. When I was twelve my friends and I started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. Sometimes we’d even steal some of our parents’ prescription drugs.
Then, at a party I met another girl and got into a physical fight. During the fight she pushed me down the stairs leading to the first floor of the house. I fell all the way down the stairs until I landed on my back in the stair well. I lied there and don’t remember how long I remained unconscious. When I finally ‘came to,’ I was lying on a hospital bed. I could see a doctor and a nurse standing over me.
When he could see that I had regained consciousness, the doctor began to speak to me. He was an older man, probably in his mid-forties. His hair was short and was a salt-and-pepper color. He wore dark rimmed glasses.”
‘You are very lucky girl,” he said. “You took a very bad fall and could have been seriously injured. There are a lot of nasty contusions on your shoulders and back, but there doesn’t appear to be any paralysis or permanent injury to your back or spine. I will be sending you for some x-rays just to be on the safe side. How is your pain?’
“I tried to move and let out a scream of pain. ‘Very bad,’ I told the doctor. He took out a prescription and wrote me a prescription for OxyContin. As soon as I took my first OxyContin I felt wonderful. The pain was still there, but I felt like I was floating on a cloud. I didn’t have a worry in the world. From that point on I was an opiate addict,” Whisper said in way of explanation. “Harold, do you mind if I go outside for a smoke. A cigarette might help me to calm down.”
“No. go right ahead. Do you like dogs?” Harold asked.
“I love dogs,” Whisper answered.
“My old dog Buddy is in the backyard. He’s a very old black Labrador retriever, but he still enjoys going for a walk. Would you be able to take Buddy for a walk while you are having your smoke break?”
“Absolutely. I’d love to. I didn’t know that you owned a dog, Harold. I could hear some barking outside, but I assumed it was a neighbor’s dog,” Whisper replied.
“After your walk you can bring Buddy in the house. He is a little shy of people he doesn’t know, but after you’ve spent a bit of time with him, he’ll love you. Especially, if you take him for a walk,” Harold said getting out of his Lazy Boy chair.
“You don’t need to get up. I’ll find Buddy on my own and I’ll take him for a walk,” Whisper said.
“Buddy’s leash is hanging up on a nail on the back door,” Harold said settling back down into his easy chair. Whisper grabbed the chained leash and opened the back door. Buddy looked up at her and began to bark. Whisper had owned a dog when she was living with her aunt and was very good at handling shy dogs. She found a box of dog treats on top of Harold’s refrigerator. Whisper took a few treats out of the box to give to Buddy. She slowly walked up to the old black lab, spoke very gently to him and gave him a treat. Buddy took the treat very readily and Whisper didn’t have any problem attaching the dog’s leash. Buddy wagged his tail to indicate that he was more than ready to go on a walk with Whisper.
As Harold watched Whisper walk out the back door with Buddy he started to feel very confused. For a long time now Harold had completely shut down his emotional life. He was barely able to feel anything as he was trying desperately to bury his pain deep inside himself. It was as if his heart was chained up and padlocked.
Harold tried to keep himself distracted by filling his day with his hobbies and his part time job. He would go out to do substitute teaching assignments about three days per week on average. He paid for a subscription with a company called Sub Alert. Harold would receive a phone call whenever a new substitute teaching job was available. Harold had the option of accepting or declining the assignment. He preferred to work with middle years and high school students. Harold became very popular with most of his students mainly because he was very cool for a man for his age. He had long white hair tied in a ponytail and dressed casually. Harold would either where a hockey jersey or a tee-shirt with a rock band’s logo covered by an unbuttoned denim shirt.
Harold looked forward to all his teaching gigs. He consistently had the attitude that he was going to make it a fun day for both himself and his students and it usually was.
“About fifteen minutes later, Whisper returned with Buddy whose tail was now wagging vigorously. As if to reward him for his good behavior during the walk, Whisper gave Buddy a red colored dog treat that Buddy greedily consumed in a few seconds.
“But I’ve told you enough for now about my problems. What happened to you out on the street. Who was that guy that pushed you out of his truck?”
“That would be Tony. He’s a real piece of work, man. He pushed me out of his truck after I told him that I wouldn’t sleep with him. Tony figured that I owed it to him. He called it ‘taking it out in trade’. He said it was only fair because he let me sleep on his couch for a few nights.”
“Why did he drop you off in front of my house?” Harold asked.
“For no particular reason. Tony and I had been having a really wicked fight for about fifteen minutes before he drove the truck down your street. Tony told me that I was giving him a migraine headache when he pushed me out on the road. We were just driving around in circles. I really don’t have any place to go anyway,” Whisper explained.
Harold stretched out in his burgundy colored Lazy Boy chair. He owned a super deluxe model that could give him a massage similar to what you could get from visiting a professional masseuse. He looked at an abstract painting that was situated on one of the walls in his living room. This beautiful piece of art had a splatter design using only black and white colors. The painting would have put a smile on Jackson Pollock’s face.
“Are you injured from being tossed out of the truck onto the street? Can I get you an ice pack from the freezer?” Harold asked.
“It would probably be a good idea to put some ice on my back. I probably have a couple of nasty bruises, but it doesn’t feel like anything is broken. You rest in your chair, Harold. I’ll get the ice pack myself while I’m making a pot of coffee. What do you take in your coffee?”
“I like Southern Butter Pecan International Delight coffee creamer along with two packets of Sugar Twin,” Harold answered.
“|Gotcha. Your wish is my command.” Whisper said as she made her way to the kitchen. She liked walking across Harold’s retro yellow shag carpet. She had taken off her wet socks and sneakers and was now walking barefoot toward the kitchen. She noticed a family portrait on the wall that included Harold, his former wife, his deceased daughter and an unknown young man and woman.
After a few minutes had passed, Whisper returned to the living room with a cup of coffee for Harold, her hot chocolate and an ice pack for her back.
“What do the buttons on your chair do?” Whisper asked after she put the refreshments on a round glass coffee table.
“They are for giving you a massage. Would you like to try it?”
“Sure,” Whisper said as Harold got up from his easy chair and exchanged places with Whisper on the sofa. It felt a bit damp where he sat on the couch as the snow that had been on Whisper’s sweat pants had melted.
I’m going to get you started on a gentle massage setting until your body adjusts to the new sensations,” Harold told Whisper. As a result of some permanent damage to his left eye Harold had difficulty reading the small lettering on the control panel of the easy chair. Harold accidentally pushed the high tension massage button.
“This chair is amazing Harold. I feel like I’m getting a real massage from a professional masseuse!” Whisper said. She could feel the heavy pressure on her back muscles. The sense of human hands kneading her back was now coming in waves giving Whisper a total body massage as it works by automatically descending to the lower back muscles.
“Did you set the timer for this chair Harold?” Whisper asked
“Yes. It should automatically shut off in ten minutes.
“Thank you, Harold. This massage is awesome. It’s helping work the soreness out of my bruised back.”
“When the timer goes off you can return to the couch and I’ll hand you an ice pack,” Harold said.
As soon as Whisper’s massage session ended, she and Harold exchanged seating locations. Whisper was now the one on the orange and yellow couch and Harold returned to his Super Deluxe Lazy Boy chair.
“I can’t thank you enough for letting me into your house and for treating me so well. I must be messing up your whole morning routine,” Whisper said.
“Oh, that’s not a problem. When I’m not out subbing I usually try to dedicate at least one hour to working on my writing. I wasn’t accomplishing anything when you entered my house anyway. I sort of had what those in the trade call writer’s block during the past few days. I’m trying to come up with a new plot and characters and I have been drawing a blank. Writers often experience this sort of thing,” Harold said.
“Can I suggest an idea?” Whisper asked.
“Certainly, I’m all ears,” Harold said.
“You could start your story off by writing about a stranger that arrived at your door one morning.”
This made Harold laugh. “You’ve got a quick wit my girl. But I want to follow up on something. You said that you don’t have a place to stay.”
“That’s right, but can we talk more a little later? I’d like to use your shower if you don’t mind. I’m feeling kind of gross.”
“No problem. The bathroom is upstairs first door on your left.”
“Thank you so much. We’ll continue the conversation after I shower and make myself more presentable,” Whisper said. As soon as Whisper had taken her backpack upstairs, Harold had some time to think. He thought to himself:
‘What are you thinking? You just let us strange woman into your house. You hardly know anything about her. She could rob and kill you for all you know. Harold thought about the body art that was visible on Whispers arms when she rolled up the sleeves on her sweatshirt. He also remembered the piercings in her nose and close to her lips.’
Harold realized that these should be real red flags for him.
When Whisper finished showering and was coming down the stairs, Harold saw how much more attractive she looked. Her shoulder length black hair was slicked back and gave off a pleasant aroma as she descended closer to the bottom of the stairs.
Whisper was now wearing a Los Angeles Kings replica Jersey. It was the design the Kings wore when Wayne Gretzky was their team captain. On the back of the Jersey ‘Whisper 99’ could be seen. She wore a pair of shiny silver slacks. The looseness of Whisper’s Jersey helped conceal her extra upper body weight. Her silver slacks were also loosely fitted, giving the impression that her legs were not too plump.
As soon as she got herself settled on the couch Whisper said, “Thank you for letting me use your shower. I feel so much better now. Does your coffee need to be reheated?” Whisper asked.
“Oh no. It’s fine. I’m about three quarters way finished it anyway.
“If you want a fresh cup just ask,” Whisper said. “So you would like to know more about my housing situation.”
“Yes. It sounds like you don’t have a permanent place to live.”
“Yes. Unfortunately, that’s presently the situation I find myself in,” Whisper said.
“ I gather that you can’t stay at Tony’s place tonight? Harold asked.
“Oh no. He might kill me.”
You’re exaggerating, aren’t you?” Harold asked with genuine alarm in his voice.
No, I’m not. I can’t count how many times that Tony has beat me up this year,” Whisper answered.
So, where were you living before you stayed with Tony?” Harold asked.
“At the Headingly Correctional Center for Women.”
“You’re kidding. What were you charged with?” Harold asked.
“Shoplifting,” Whisper replied.
“Why did you shoplift?” Harold asked.
“Probably because I didn’t have any money for food and cigarettes.”
Do you steal from stores a lot?” Harold asked.
“Yeah. Quite a lot, actually. I get a cheque from social assistance, but it doesn’t provide nearly enough, especially if you smoke like I do. Mostly I steal because I need stuff. I run out of money early in the month I don’t budget my money really well. Sometimes I just shoplift when I get bored. I get an adrenaline rush from it.”
“Do you ever feel guilty about stealing?” Harold asked.
“Not really. I mean I know it’s not right, but a person has to provide for themselves.”
“Have you ever had a regular job before?” Harold asked.
“Sure. I was the human resources director for a large Christian non profit organization for about five years. Then I got fired.” Whisper answered.
“Why did you get fired?” Harold asked.
“For embezzlement. They found out that I was padding my expense account pretty regularly.” Whisper answered.
Harold laughed, “Now that I think about it, your life story would probably make a good fiction read. You just need to find the right author to tell your story to.”
“I’m looking at the right author right now and we just started working together this morning,” Whisper replied.
“You’re not serious. Are you?” Harold asked.
“Of course, I’m serious! I can tell just by talking to you that you’re a good writer. You’re very articulate Harold. Look, it’s not like I’m super busy or anything.”
“Why is that?” Harold asked.
“I’m on long term disability. My social worker at Headingly was good. After I told Janet about my mental health issues, she recommended that I apply for it through the government. So, guess what? I did what she said and my disability benefits were approved.