Episode 5 of Whisper, a Novel by Ken David Stewart


Episode Five:

There were at least twenty people in the reception area. They were all people that our society would or could not accommodate. Most successful and prosperous people would never encounter them and would only know about them on an intellectual level probably by reading about the poor and needy people via the media.

Only the truly marginalized would end up in a welfare office. Nobody could really understand this mass of unfortunates except the unfortunates themselves. Some of the most dedicated social agency workers would do some research and attempt to educate themselves about the plight of their clients. However, very few of them had personal experience with poverty, chronic disability and illness, addiction issues and homelessness.

People with some or all of there issues helped create a billion- dollar industry. The irony was that the most marginalized persons in society were responsible for creating and maintaining full time profitable employment for a substantial number of professional workers. Those in administrative positions made the big money. The front- line workers didn’t make a living wage unless they had a strong union. The needy people in the province were responsible for generating significant employment but the tax payers picked up the bill.

 

 

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Whisper a Novel by Ken David Stewart Eps. 12


Episode 12:

When Harold and Whisper arrived at the EIA building Harold opened the front door of the entrance. Both Harold and Whisper were almost overwhelmed by the strong odour of poverty and homelessness. Whisper waited in line for the welfare intake worker for about twenty minutes before the worker typed in Whisper’s personal information. After this task was completed the worker asked Whisper to find a seat in the crowded, foul smelling waiting area.

Harold and Whisper found two empty folding chairs. Harold was seated next to an elderly man who reeked of body odour and was having an animated discussion with himself. “Probably schizophrenia,” Harold thought. He had a cousin who suffered from schizophrenia and Harold was very cognizant of the manifestations of this devastating illness. Auditory and visual hallucinations were common symptoms of this chronic and persistent mental illness. To Whisper’s left was a wall with four pay phones. A dishevelled and agitated young man who appeared to be in his early twenties was growing increasingly frustrated as he was trying to call a phone number that he had misread. He started to loudly utter obscenities until a burly security guard intervened and asked the man if he required assistance with dialing the phone number.

 

 

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Whisper Episode Eleven


Episode 11:

“No wonder you’re scared. I can drive you to the Employment and Assistance office any time you are ready to go,” Harold offered.

“That’s awesome Harold. I’m ready to go right now if that’s possible,” Whisper said.

“Let’s get going then.”

Harold owned a burgundy colored 2006 Ford Taurus. He had a lot of problems with his car a few months after he bought it. The most expensive repair bill occurred when the transmission on the Ford Taurus crapped out. The total bill for having a rebuilt transmission came to close to three thousand dollars.

Fortunately, Harold’s stepson, Richard had a friend who was a licenced mechanic who did auto repairs in his spare time when he wasn’t working for Seabrook Auto Clinic. Richard’s friend was able to charge his customers very reasonable rates as he did his part time work under the table so that he didn’t have to pay taxes.

Whisper needed to go to the closest EIA office as she needed to inform social assistance that she now had a permanent residence. She also needed to fill out the rent information so that welfare would pay her monthly rent directly to Harold.

It was a chilly twenty-one degrees Celsius as Harold and Whisper walked to his car. Whisper shivered from the cold because someone had stolen her winter coat.

“After you take care of business at the social assistance agency I’m going to take you to Hangers to buy you a new parka,” Harold said.

“You don’t need to do that Harold. I don’t want you to spend your own money on me,” Whisper said still shivering from the cold.

“Don’t worry. I can afford it and you can rest assured that there are no strings attached,” Harold responded.

 

 

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Episode 2 of Whisper by Ken David Stewart


Episode 6:

“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 was involved in 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.

Episode 7:

“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.”

Yes, it is, but I should be an old hand at grieving by now. My wife Clarissa divorced me five years ago,” Harold said causing another tear to trickle down his cheek.

“That’s terrible, man. Two major losses in five years! No one should have to suffer that much.”

“I agree, but it happened to me. It is what it is,” Harold said taking out a handkerchief to wipe away his tears.

“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 have sex with him. Tony just 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.cropped-fantasy-5.jpg

Whisper a Novel by Ken David Stewart


Whisper by Ken David Stewart

Introduction

It was back, Big Time. Harold Peyton found himself in the clutches of the most devastating episode of clinical depression that he had ever experienced in his sixty-five years. He was used to this. Harold suffered from the type of depression that was episodic in nature. He was not depressed all the time, but large chunks of his life had been lost. During these times, Harold would succumb to the vast darkness of depression. What Winston Churchill described as his ‘black dog’.

Harold just wanted to shut down and block out the whole world. He sat in a broken -down office chair adorned with torn upholstery. Harold was a published author and was working on a new mystery novel. The problem was that he couldn’t get his muse turned on. Every time he tried to think of a new idea to move his plot along, his mind went blank.

Harold just stared at the blank word document on his computer screen. Everything that he attempted was hard. Harold was grateful that he had a month’s holiday left from his part time job as a substitute teacher. To do a job like that you have to be able to get yourself pumped up and be able to think very sharply. Right now, Harold could do neither.

Episode 2:

Harold Peyton was exceptionally fit and healthy for a sixty-five year- old male. He was once a heavy smoker but overcame his addiction to cigarettes twenty years ago. Harold made his physical fitness regimen a top priority in his life. He rode his prized black and white Giant Mountain bike every day, even during inclement weather. On alternate days Harold would go to Shapes gym for a forty-five minute resistance training workout. Although he was still a bit pudgy, he carried his excess weight well and was still a physically attractive man. Harold looked at least ten years younger than his chronological age.

Harold lived in a modest home in the suburb of River Heights in the windy city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He loved animals and was presently the proud owner of two dogs and two cats.

Following the frustration of fifteen minutes of totally unproductive writing, Harold got out of his office chair and walked over to the burgundy colored drapes of his picture window. He tugged on the cord that opened the curtains and gazed upon the outside world. The city of Winnipeg experienced an early bitter winter during November, 2013. The picture window was covered with intermittent patches of frost and ice. Snow was now falling very heavily.

Harold honestly enjoyed the winter season especially fresh snow falls. He loved the way the tree branches looked when they were covered by shiny, white, snowflakes.

Episode 3 and 4:

But today the beauty of the winter season had little effect upon Harold’s somber mood. When he was trapped in this mental state, he was unable to bring himself to experience joy in things and activities that had once brought him pleasure. It was as if his happy button had been turned to the off position.

Harold thought of his ex-wife Clarissa. They had been divorced nearly five years now. Harold missed Clarissa, but he did not blame her for leaving him. What woman could live with the frequent intense darkness of his moods. During these times Harold would totally ignore her as he closed himself off from the entire world. After staring out his picture window for about two minutes, Harold could hear his dogs barking loudly and sharply. He soon realized what was upsetting them.

A white Ford 150 truck was parked directly across the street from Harold’s house. He could see the black hair of a large burly man with black hair in the driver’s seat. The man appeared to be in his early thirties. He was very angry at a young female who looked to be in her early twenties. Through his picture window

Harold watched as the burly young man pushed his female passenger out of his truck and onto the ice packed snow covering the road. The burly man in his early thirties then tossed a large orange and turquoise colored duffle bag onto the street. It almost hit the young woman who was lying prostate on the street. The angry male in the truck yelled a few vile obscenities at his female victim and then drove away in his Ford 150.

Looking through his picture window, Harold watched the young woman slowly and painfully rise to her feet. She was wearing only a grey hoodie sweatshirt, black sweat pants with a tear in one knee and a pair of well worn red Converse running shoes. She was now standing in the street shivering on a cold day in March. A black Honda Accord honked loudly at her as he came close to colliding with the girl who now had tears streaming down her cheeks.

Episode 5:

Harold watched after the Ford 150 drove away. He stood and stared at the young woman and started to think what he was going to do about her. Harold didn’t even consider calling the police. Instead he opened the front door of his house and called loudly to the girl in distress.

“Come here young lady. You need to get out of the cold or you’ll freeze to death!”

The young female looked towards Harold with a confused and frightened look. She wiped the snowflakes off her hoodie and walked awkwardly towards the door that Harold was holding open for her.

“Thank you so much Mister. You may have saved my life. May I come in your house?

“Step into the living room and make yourself at home,” Harold replied.

“Thanks. Hey, I should introduce myself. My name is Whisper,” the strange young woman said as she found a place to sit on Harold’s yellow and orange patterned sofa. Whisper admired the brass antique lamp to the left of the sofa. The full décor of Harold Peyton’s living room had the ambiance that could only come from a man who appreciated fine art.

“Could I interest you in a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee or perhaps a mug of hot chocolate?” Harold asked. “By the way, Whisper is a beautiful name. Who gave you that name?”

“My grandma came up with it if I remember correctly,” Whisper replied.
While standing in the hall, Harold now had a good opportunity to observe Whisper. Her hair was blonde highlighted by orange streaks. It presently looked wet and tangled. There were still some snowflakes in her hair. Whisper’s make up was smudged and smeared from her tears. Whisper had a gold rod piercing through her nose. She wore orange lipstick and had a pentagon tattoo on her left forearm. She was not very attractive and was slightly overweight giving her somewhat of a pudgy look. Harold thought that Whisper resembled a naughty, terribly neglected little elf.fantasy-6

Revision of Chaos Novel by Ken David Stewart


Chaos, A Novel by Ken David Stewart (Revised Version #1

Episode One:

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, 2016. 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.

Episode 2:

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 teachers 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.

Episode 6:

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.

Episode 7:

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 starting pulling 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.”

Episode 8:

“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.”

Episode 9:

“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.”

Episode 10:

“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.”

Episode 11:

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.

Episode 7:

“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.”

Episode 8:

“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.

Episode 9:

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.

Episode 10:

“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.

Episode 11:

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.

Episode 12:

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.

Episode 13:

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.

“So I gather 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 real 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.

Episode 14:fantasy-21(1)

Revised, Keith Ross, a Novel by Ken David Stewart


The Life and Times of Keith Ross by Ken David Stewart

Two months ago in the year 2017 Keith Ross turned sixty-five. Most of the time he wished that he had died ten years earlier. When he was fifty-five, he still thought he was doing reasonably well. Although he was about forty pounds overweight at this age, he was still relatively healthy and was functional most of the time. He held a job he liked, although he hated dealing with his supervisor.

Although he had been in debt for most of his adult years, his financial liabilities had never seemed nearly as ponderous as they were at present. The thing was that Keith never expected to wake up one morning only to find that he was now officially a senior citizen. He didn’t mind being sixty-five years old, at least on paper. Keith just didn’t like all the negative baggage that came with old age. He wasn’t happy about the fact that he was now approximately ninety pounds overweight and that his stretches of good health were now becoming few and far between. The truth be told, he felt like shit most of the time. Besides the limitations that come with obesity, his family doctor had informed Keith that he now had a mild case of COPD. After forty plus years of smoking a pack a day of cigarettes what else could he expect.

Episode Two

Keith took hold of his Roku remote and found the Creflo Dollar channel on his tv. He had now completed his substitute teaching assignments for the rest of this year. Keith was exhausted and he really hadn’t been feeling well since January of 2017. His doctors could not properly say what ailed him so Keith had to come up with a diagnosis of his own. Left to his own devices, after hours and days of personal research, Keith concluded that he was suffering with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia These medical conditions caused Keith to lack any significant and sustained energy to get done what he both needed and wanted to do.

He wanted to continue with his substitute teaching gigs in the fall, but this month he had found his assignments to be extremely exhausting to the extent that he was unable to do much but lie on the couch when he got home from work. Keith had managed to struggle through most of this year by relying upon sheer willpower, a doctor prescribed stimulant and a concoction of natural supplements. For a while his self designed treatment protocol appeared to be working. For about one month he felt relatively healthy and could occasionally string together two or three days in which he could actively pursue some of his extracurricular hobbies after work.

Unfortunately, he had ultimately neither discovered the secret to sustained energy nor the fountain of youth. He woke up one morning to find that his get up and go had got up and gone. He found this realization to be very troubling and depressing.

Keith surely didn’t need any more things to make him feel depressed. He suffered from what is clinically termed double depression for most of his adult life. Double depression means that one is mildly depressed most of the time, but will occasionally succumb to severe episodes of major depression.

Episode Three

This morning Keith Ross was hoping that listening to Creflo Dollar’s message would help to improve his mood and provide him with some inspiration. He did attend a local church occasionally, but preferred to stay at home and watch services via the internet.

Keith had many TV preachers that he watched including Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, Patricia King, Jim Richards and Todd Bentley. Many years ago he got introduced to the Charismatic stream of Christian theology through the influence of one of his old girlfriends.

He preferred to believe in a positive, motivating theology. He knew that there were more mainstream theologies out there, but over the years he had become very disillusioned with them. Keith’s father had been a Baptist preacher who taught a very conservative view of the Bible and the Christian life. Keith had always thought that there had to be more to Christianity than this and his former girlfriend had shown him that that he could go much deeper in his relationship with God.

 

Keith wanted to believe that God loved him and wanted him to be blessed with good health and financial prosperity. He did not want to get rich. He only desired to get all his debts paid off death and to have enough money for a comfortable lifestyle.

The next morning Keith Ross woke up and felt miserable. It was another morning where he felt as if he had never slept during the night. He groggily got off his ragged, old, broken down couch where he slept most nights. He often fell asleep on the couch while reading or watching TV.

 

Keith frequently watched Fox News before he went to bed. When he was young man, he was very much a socialist, but as he got older, he began to see the negative characteristics of a totally socialized society. At first, he wasn’t crazy about Donald Trump, but during the first six months of Trump’s presidency, Keith was starting to really admire the way the new president took tough stands on issues that he strongly believed in.

 

He took out his favorite glass of water from the kitchen shelf and began taking his massive regimen of medications and dietary supplements. Keith followed this with a bowl of Raisin Bran cereal. He’s preferred Frosted Flakes, but he had recently decided to be more careful about his food choices.

As soon as he finished his breakfast, Keith felt so tired that he lied down on the couch. After about five minutes had passed, he got up and looked out the window. The sun was shining brightly. He promptly turned on the weather channel to check today’s forecast. The weather channel reported a high of 28°C with sunny skies throughout the day. He started to think about going for a bike ride. Keith looked up at his beautiful, black Giant mountain bike parked a few feet behind his large, flat screen TV.

Keith decided to make himself go for a bike ride. He now had too many days when he had to ‘push himself’ to do anything. Was he getting old or was it just that he’s out of shape and not eating nutritious meals? Probably Keith’s chronic fatigue was due to a variety of factors.

There was beautiful weather outside and Keith enjoyed his morning bike rides. He rated his physical stamina by his ability to keep going for bike rides year after year.

When Keith returned from his ride, he returned to his old, broken down orange and yellow couch. Keith didn’t know if it was just psychological, but Keith found that taking short power naps during the day allowed him to get more accomplished.

One of Keith’s favorite avocations was writing fiction novels. He had self published three of his original works so far, but none of them had made him any money. Nevertheless, Keith enjoyed the writing process and he found it to be very therapeutic. He found it amazing how the act of writing dredged up memories from the past and old traumas that you thought you had forgotten.

Keith was presently working on a novel that he had temporarily given the title, Chaos. Keith had just started his first rough draft of chapter five after re-reading and self editing chapter four.

Episode Five

Keith was just about to begin work on chapter five. Keith was startled by a loud knock on his front door. When he got up from his comfortable, black leather office chair, he saw a young woman who appeared to be in her late teens or early twenties. The young female was dressed all in black and was probably a goth. Keith had run into the odd goth here and there when he subbed in some of his local high schools.

“Hey, I’m Tamara. I’m your new neighbor. I’ve been dying to meet you so I brought over some spicy broccoli soup and sandwiches. I thought that maybe we could have lunch and then hang out for a while.”

Tamara’s voice was a bit shaky and she probably had to really pump up her courage to knock on her new neighbor’s door. Keith noticed that Tamara was wearing the classic black Nirvana tee shirt, the one with a smiley face and gold lettering on it. She wore extra large, round, gold earrings and had several piercings through her eyebrows, nose and lips.

“Tamara, I’m pleased to meet you. My name is Keith Ross and I’m a senior citizen. There’s just me and my dog Rex living here now. I’d like it very much if we could have lunch together.”

“Cool,” Tamara said as she started arranging her food on Keith’s kitchen table. Keith’s furnishings were very modest. When he and his last girlfriend split up, she took all the good, newer furniture for herself. Keith and Tamara could hear loud barking coming from the backyard.

“That’s my dog, Rex. Do you mind if I let him come in the house?” Keith asked.

“No problem. man. I love animals. What kind of dog is it?”

“Rex is a German shepherd with a very sweet disposition. Rex loves people, especially young people.”

Episode six

As soon as Keith opened his back porch door to let Rex in, the dog immediately started to bark at the stranger. Tamara held out her left hand for Rex to sniff. He handed over to Tamara a plastic baggie filled with chopped up Rollover Sausage and asked her to give his dog a treat. Rex jumped up for the treat so fast that he almost bit Tamara’s fingers.

After receiving his treat, Rex was now ready to make friends with Tamara and to get some affection from her. Rex turned over on his back signifying the canine submission position.

“Are you ready to eat lunch now, Keith?” Tamara asked as she moved towards Keith’s black with orange polka-dots kitchen table. Which drawer is your cutlery in?”

“The second drawer on the left-hand side,” Keith answered. Tamara found two soup bowls and dished out some soup in Keith’s red bowl.

“Thanks, Tamara. It isn’t very often that someone brings me lunch,” Keith said as he put a large spoon in his bowl of soup.

“Don’t you have any family or friends?” Tamara asked.

“No one that visits me much anymore,” Keith answered.

“Why is that?”

“Well the truth is that I outlived my only real friend. He passed on from lung cancer last year.”

“Were you close friends?” Tamara asked while putting some crackers in Keith’s soup.

“Yes, we were. I knew Paul from our elementary school days. We lived on the same block and sort of grew up together,” Keith added.

“That must’ve been a terrible loss for you,” Tamara commented as she put one of her hands over Keith’s left hand. Keith wiped a tear from his eye.

“How about family, Keith?” Tamara asked.

“I don’t see or hear from any of them very often. I have a brother and sister who are quite a bit older than me. Both live in managed care facilities now,” Keith said.

“Did you ever have a wife or kids?” Tamara asked.

“Yeah, I was married once. About thirty years ago. My ex-wife and I had one son together,” he said reaching for one of Tamara’s homemade corned beef sandwiches.

“So, you’re divorced?” Tamara asked.

Keith nodded his head.

“What about your son? Do you ever hear from him?”

“Not very often. Maybe once or twice a year. I think he still blames me for the breakup of our family.”

Episode Seven

‘How about you, Tamara?” Keith asked. “I don’t know anything about you yet.”

“Well, I just moved in with my grandmother,” Tamara answered.

“You mean Brenda Reese? I’ve talked to her many times. She’s a nice lady. She is still known as the pet rescue lady in the neighborhood. Brenda always has at least two stray animals that she keeps until she can find good homes for them. Where were you living before you moved in with your grandma?” Keith asked.

“I was living with my boyfriend, Blake Edwards in Orlando, Florida, not too far from the Everglades,” Tamara answered.

“Where’s Blake living now?”

“He’s in Manitoba right now getting free room and board in The Headingly Correctional Facility. He originally moved to Winnipeg with me and got himself a bachelor suite on Furby Street. After living there for only two days Blake tried to rob a Chinese restaurant two blocks away. The truth is that Blake is not a very smart criminal. It only took the cops about an hour to arrest him,” Tamara answered.

“When is he going to be released from jail?” Keith asked grabbing another corned beef sandwich.

“They’ll probably keep him for a few months as Blake gets into trouble with the law a lot. I think that Blake made a poor choice when he decided to be a career outlaw. The truth is that he is not very good at it, but he hasn’t figured that out yet.”

“Are you in love with Blake?” Keith asked as Tamara took a sip from her glass of water.

“It’s hard to say. I don’t really know what love is. If you are talking about a physical, chemical attraction to Blake, yeah, it’s there. I don’t approve of his lifestyle though. I wish he’d grow up, get a job and have some positive direction for his life.”

“It sounds like you want a good quality life. How did you end up moving to Winnipeg?”

“That was Marilyn’s idea. She’s my stepmother. She didn’t want me living that close to the Everglades. Marilyn is worried that it’s too dangerous a location for me. About a month ago, she was watching tv and saw a news story about a nine- foot Burmese python that wandered into one of our neighbor’s yard in Orlando. The snake had eaten their dog. Marilyn phoned Brenda, my grandmother, and asked if I could live with her for awhile until I found a place of my own in Winnipeg. Marilyn didn’t know that Blake was coming to Winnipeg with me.”

Episode Eight

“After lunch do you want to take your dog for a walk? We can take mine too. He’s an American cocker spaniel. I left him at Grandma’s house,” Tamara asked.

“That’s a great idea. I usually take Rex out for a walk just about every day. We only walk for about ten to fifteen minutes. Rex is strong and I’m an old man. I’m planning to get myself in better shape this summer, though. Do you have a bicycle, Tamara?” he asked.

“Yes, I have a red and white Trek,” Tamara answered.

“Would you like to go for a bike ride with me? I like to cycle around St. Vital Park.”

“I would love to. That would give me more motivation to exercise,” Keith responded.

Just as Keith took a long sip from his glass of water, he saw two police constables walking up to his front door.

“I wonder why the police are coming to my house. I didn’t call them,” he said looking puzzled.

When Keith opened the door for the two police officers, a young male constable looked Keith in the eye. “Do you have a young lady named Tamara Cameo staying with you?”

Keith shrugged. “Yes, but I just met her. She just came over for lunch.”

Tamara stepped in front of Keith and confidently confronted the constable. “I know why you’re here. You’re going to pick me up for breaching my parole last night.”

“That’s right,” said the other constable, a young, attractive female police officer. We were just at your grandmother’s house and she told us you might be here. Place your hands behind your back. I’m going to have to handcuff you.”

“Just as the police constable was putting the handcuffs on Tamara, her grandmother crossed into Keith’s yard to see what all the excitement was about.

Brenda Reeves had a slim build and was an attractive lady who had just celebrated her fifty fourth birthday. She presented with a calm demeanor as she approached the police officers.

“Sorry about this, constables. I was just telling Tamara yesterday how important it is to meet with her parole officer.”

“I didn’t think that they would arrest me today. I just got caught for selling a little bit of weed,” Tamara said as an annoyed look spread across her face.

“The court takes skipping mandated appointments very seriously, my dear,” the young, blonde police officer said as she checked to see if she had positioned the handcuffs correctly.

“We came over to your grandmother’s house as soon as we were notified by your parole officer that you failed to attend this morning’s meeting.”

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I was going to phone Sarah, my PO, to find out if I could meet with her later today. What the heck. Prime Minister Trudeau is going to legalize marijuana next year anyway,” Tamara protested.

 

The young, handsome male constable took Tamara’s right arm and started to move her towards the police car.

“That’s all well and good, but you still have to wait until next year. Maybe by then, you can get a license to sell weed legally and maybe open up your own shop,” Constable Williams said with a grin.

Tamara started to chuckle. “That sounds like a plan, but I guess you guys have to take me to jail today.”

“That’s right,” said Constable Humie, the attractive blonde female constable.

Episode Nine

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 close 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 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 where 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’s teaching career.

Episode 10:

Brenda asked Keith to take a seat at the center bar in her kitchen. It was made of marble, had a speckled design of silver and black and had the capacity to seat up to eight people.

As Keith started to lower himself into a stylish, modern chair, Brenda noticed that he was having a difficult time seating himself. She could hear him utter an audible groan.

“Keith, are you in pain?” Brenda asked, her voice registering noticeable concern.

“Yes. Unfortunately, I’m in a lot of pain. I have my good days and my bad days. Sometimes I have good months and bad months,” Keith answered.

“How long have you suffered like this?”

“For most of my adult life. I think it began in my mid-thirties. One day I was performing a weight resistance exercise at the gym, when I felt a horrendous shot of pain in my lower back. From then on, I’ve had nothing but trouble with my lower back. Fortunately, it will sometimes go into remission for two or three months. Just to make the pot a little bit sweeter, I also developed a serious case of fibromyalgia in my forties.”

“Is fibromyalgia what they used to call the yuppie flu”?

“Actually, chronic fatigue syndrome was usually the condition that earned that unfortunate moniker, but I’m sure that fibromyalgia would also fall under the same umbrella.”

“So how do you cope with the pain?”

“By God’s grace and the compassion of my family doctor, Dr. Rickland who prescribes a daily dose of Tylenol threes and naproxen to treat my chronic pain syndrome.”

“Does it work for the pain?”

“To some extent, but not entirely. It helps to numb the pain enough so that I can continue working on a part-time basis. When my condition really gets bad, I have to take a month to six weeks off work and see my chiropractor on almost a daily basis.”

“Has chiropractic helped?”

“I believe so, but doesn’t stop the pain right away.”

“Have you ever smoked marijuana, Keith?” Brenda asked. Oh, before you answer, I’m going to make some Tim Horton’s coffee and bring out a plate of home baked oatmeal and raisin cookies.”

“Are they big?” Keith asked.

“I haven’t heard any guys complain about the size?”

Keith looked startled for a second and then burst out laughing.

“I was referring to the cookies, but I enjoy them large and firm in both contextual meanings.”

“My God, Keith. You are a funny man. I think we both needed a good laugh.”

“Now back to my original question. Have you ever smoked marijuana?

Episode 11:

“Ah, hell. That was decades ago. When I was going to high school I’d take a toke off a joint as it was passed around at a party. I never liked weed enough to even buy a nickel bag for myself. Besides I couldn’t roll a decent joint by myself. I never thought of using a pot pipe. No one I knew had one,” Keith answered.

“Did you enjoy smoking grass when you were young man?” Brenda asked

“Not really. I much preferred drinking beer. I was quite shy when I was young guy and found it difficult to have a conversation with anyone when I was sober. All that changed after I had about three beers. Suddenly, I became loquacious and was the life of the party. When I got stoned on pot it had the opposite effect upon me. I would try to carry on an intelligent conversation with someone and would find that I had trouble getting the right words out.”

“The new cannabis products that are available are much better than the pot we used to smoke in the seventies. Would you like to try some?” Brenda asked.

“You mean right now?” Keith asked.

“Yes, I use cannabis often. It helps to relieve my anxiety. I have a couple of joints rolled already.”

“Yeah what the heck. I’ve tried almost everything else to treat this chronic pain,” Keith replied.

Episode 12:

“Let’s move over to the living room and watch a video while we have our snack and smoke some weed. Are you okay with that?” Brenda asked.

“Sure, is there a particular video you had in mind?”

“Did you ever like Led Zeppelin, Keith? I mean when you were younger.”

“I love Led Zeppelin I still listen to their music now. In fact, I’m trying to learn some of their songs on my bass guitar. I’m not that good a player yet, but I enjoy learning to play the bass riffs of classic metal songs.

“Wow! You like Led Zeppelin and are a bass player too. I didn’t know we had so much in common. I love Led Zeppelin’s music too and I play guitar. Like you, I don’t think I’m very good yet, but I really enjoy practicing. The video I’ve got in mind is Celebration Day, Led Zeppelin’s reunion concert.”

“Fantastic. Put it on,” Keith said.

Brenda took a look at her DVD collection on one of the shelves of her solid oak bookcase. She was very organized and had her videos arranged according to alphabetical order. It didn’t take her long to find the Celebration Day video. Keith took a seat on Brenda’s red leather sofa.

“I can’t believe it Brenda. Everything in your house is so neat and organized.”

“Why, thank you, Keith. You need to give my mother credit for that. That’s how she trained me.”

Before Brenda put in the video in the DVD player she walked over the kitchen to get the oatmeal raisin cookies and the coffee.

“Let me give you a hand Brenda. I’ll get the coffee and the smoking supplies.”

“Thank you, Keith. I sure appreciate all your help.”

After she set herself down on the sofa Brenda filled a small orange and silver colored pipe with some Killer B. Kush, a high-grade hybrid strain of cannabis. She took a couple of tokes from the pipe before passing it over to Keith. She intentionally slid very close to Keith on the sofa. Keith was a little surprised but having Brenda’s body so close to his made him very happy.

Episode 13

Keith reached over to the coffee table and immediately started to devour  an extra large oatmeal raisin cookie.

“Two tokes and I’ve got the munchies already. This isn’t going to help with my weight problem Brenda.”

“Don’t worry. If I know my daughter, she will be offering you plenty of opportunities to work off that excess weight. Tamara’s very athletic. She gets up early every morning and goes jogging with her dog. She also likes to go for long bike rides on her Trek. When that’s not enough for her, she goes to Shapes gym for a workout. I can tell that she likes you already Keith.”

“Even though I’ve only just met Tamara the feeling is mutual. She seems to be a really smart kid. Very cool.”

“I would greatly appreciate it if you could spend some time with her. Tamara really needs a good male role model in her life. Her father left his family when she was only five years old. She’s been hurting over her loss ever since. And she doesn’t always make the best decisions when choosing boyfriends.”

Episode 14

Keith Ross was an early riser. This was not by choice. His faithful black lab, Rex would wake his owner up by licking his bare feet. Keith hadn’t slept on his king-sized bed since the night his ex-wife left. He didn’t like the dark. It scared him. Every emotion attached to living alone scared him. He chose to sleep on his old worn out leather sofa with Rex right beside him. Keith didn’t own a pair of pajamas. He preferred to fall asleep on the couch in his street clothes that usually consisted of one of his favorite tee shirts and a pair of black sweatpants with white stripes running down both sides.

Keith bore a strong physical resemblance to the late, great Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. He was actually a big fan of Jerry Garcia. Keith just wished that he could master a musical instrument the way the Grateful Dead’s American icon did with ease.

 

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