Tag: amwriting

Enigma of the Soul

   Enigma Of The Soul

How often do you use the word, ‘Soul?’ How often do you think about your ‘Soul?’

Mirriam-Webster defines ‘Soul’ as:

1. the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life

2. a: the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe

So, that’s enough, right? The two definitions pretty much say it all, and there are more definitions there in the dictionary if you want more.

‘Soul’ seems to me, though, such a huge word to be so small. Writers likely get the most use out of the word than the people who really work for a living — no anger, please, just adding a little levity here. Really, it seems to me that ‘Soul’ is not in too many mundane conversations. ‘Soul’ is usually saved for the philosophers, poets, preachers, Romantics, sentimentalists, and writers.

You can almost envision the literary expatriates who gathered in Paris between the period of World War One and the onset of World War Two…wtiters like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, Sherwood Anderson, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, Samuel Beckett, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Lawrence Durrell, Gertrude Stein to name a few — okay, okay, I’m name-dropping — but these were the people I read and studied in college and their lives got somehow interwoven with my own, with my ‘Soul.’ I can see them sitting at the sidewalk cafes talking in the afternoon about their writings, about how the devastation of war had impacted their lives. I can see them drinking the Bacchus liquids and debauching in the evenings, pausing in their fun and frivolity for serious and sober moments to discuss the condition of the ‘Soul.’

These were the people Gertrude Stein referred to as ‘the lost generation.’ Certainly, why not Paris? Why not gather in the great city of lights with so much art and beauty? It was the place to be if you were disillusioned by a world intent on war and destruction. It was the perfect place and time to discuss matters of the ‘Soul,’ and these great writers held those discussions in the finest style and with some of the most celebrated erudition prevalent in those days.

So, why do I post about ‘Soul?’

Guess it’s easy for me, an oldtimer looking back on his life, how he’s lived, somewhat of an anachronism in today’s fast moving digital world. ‘Soul’ is such an all-encompassing word. It holds such a fascination for me in these sunset years, but it has always held that fascination for me — guess ‘Soul’ for me is what writing is all about. We live, we pay taxes, and we die, but the ‘Soul’ offers us so many delectable scenarios of which to consider and ponder.

‘Soul’ is that defining part of us that we can’t pinpoint, can’t know exactly where it is, but we have to know that it is there. ‘Soul’ is everything Mirriam-Webster says it is, but so very much more. There are times when the directions we take as a world concerns me greatly. It is my hope that we can still take time, Paris or not, to discuss the implications of such an enigmatic and beautiful word.

‘Soul.’

Billy Ray Chitwood – 12/10/17 + 8/23/19

-Still Relevant-

(From the Archives, 8/12)
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Femme Fury Fatality

-Photo art by: Dennis Buchner – Unsplash-

Femme Fury Fatality

The sea from the balcony was glorious in its sunset pose. The brilliant yellow orb slowly dipped in the western sky, creating an unbridled inner stirring where phrases were worn closet clichés, feeble in rendering the poetic wonder of the Malibu scene. The heart and mind could never blend an appropriate coupling in describing a perfect utterance for a California evening in its sunset stages.

A lone couple walked along the edge of the slow-lapping surf with a beautiful Golden Retriever ahead joyfully leaping and romping in the choppy waters, chasing a large hard-rubber bone thrown by its master.

Melody Maybury stood pensively at the balcony’s sturdy stucco railing, engulfed in this splendid moment of another day’s end. There was a plaintive acceptance and gratitude for this ritual splendor. Delicate notes from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini played softly from the balcony speaker, and Melody could not stop negative thoughts from intruding on this magical view.

“He’s a bastard. I’ve known Jeff Germaine for three years and I’ve never called him that before. Get over it. He could be telling you the truth. If you feel that way, move on. Find someone else. This is a sad story so often told. There’s someone out there who is real and can love you. But, am I being fair to Jeff? We’ve had some close, wonderful moments together. Oh, Damn, why am I doing this to myself?”

 Her thoughts persisted, negative, positive, back and forth, good guy, bad guy. What about the wonderful moments?

The phone ringing from inside broke into her monologue, and she left the sunset beauty and went inside to answer. She closed off the surf sounds by sliding shut the door to the balcony.

“Hello,” she spoke into the speaker.

“Melody, it’s Jeff. I’ve got a problem.”

Melody was silent.

“Melody, did you hear me? I’ve got a huge problem, and I need your help.”

“Really?” She stiffly responded. “You need my help? You told me you didn’t need me just last night. I’m hanging up, Jeff. I can’t help you, the way we are now.”

“Wait, please wait, Melody. Don’t hang up. I didn’t tell you, ‘I didn’t need you’ – I was talking about our spat: ‘I didn’t need the spat’. I do need you in my life. I love you. Please, Mel, hear me, ‘I need your help’. This is urgent for me or I would not call and bother you with it. It involves you as well as me. Please, hear me out. If you want us to be finished, we can be, but wait, please, until you hear me out. Melody, are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here, and I’ll listen but I’m not promising anything.”

“That’s okay, Melody. I’m a ‘heel’, I know, but I do love you. I hurt you and I’m so sorry. It was just the heat of our argument. Please try to believe me. Here’s why the call. I’m in the Santa Monica PD locked up on a bogus charge, and you are the only one who can help me. Please, Melody, help me.”

Melody heard loud voices and a scuffle in the background.

“Jeff, where did you go? Jeff?”

“I’m here. There’s another guy wanting me off the phone. Okay, here’s the story… Last night, when I left – at your request – I went to see Donna Grayson to ask her to call you, to tell you we were not an ‘item’, never had been, and that she was being a bitch for letting you think I was playing house with her…it never happened, Mel, truly, it never happened. But she wasn’t home, so I stayed last night in a motel off the Hollywood Freeway, and today, after…”

“Jeff, Jeff…”

“I’ve got to get off the phone, Mel, this guy here is nuts, but please believe me. I love you and only you. Donna was dead when I arrived at her place, and the cops think I did it. I did not kill her. Don’t even think that, Mel. I promise you, I did not. Can you make some calls for me, Mel? Try to get Les Baxter to get me bail, to get me out of here, let the studio know. I just tried to reach Les and could not. I’ve got to go. This guy is all over me, wanting the phone. I love you, Melody. Always have, always will…”

There was a loud crack in the phone, apparently dropped to the floor. “Hey, whoever you are, get off the damned phone so I can get a dial tone.” A gruff and nasty voice, not, Jeff’s.

Melody put the phone back in its cradle, and her thoughts came jumbled, all disjointed for some seconds. She sat on the long sofa for several minutes digesting what she heard from Jeff. Was his story the truth? Was it true he has not been seeing Donna? Donna was dead. My God, Jeff’s in jail for killing Donna. What to do? Call Les Baxter for help. Santa Monica PD. Get Jeff out of jail

After several attempts, she reached Les Baxter and gave him the information from Jeff. Then, she called her Dad and Mom in El Paso just to talk, to tell them she loved them and missed them. She never mentioned the bad news about the fella she was living with.

*

Later, the next day after Les Baxter posted bail, Jeff and Melody sat in their lovely Malibu home, looking out the glass doors to the balcony and on farther west over the gentle incoming waves to another incredible sunset.

“Do you want to talk about Donna’s murder, Jeff?”

They sat on the sofa sipping cocktails.

“I’d like to talk, Mel, but civilly, not in angry bursts. You say you now believe that Donna and I were not an item. Do you honestly believe that? If so, I want to talk.”

“Just remember, there were some strong suspicions and…” She shrugged, “yes, yes, I believe you. Now, tell me what happened.”

“Hmm, okay, from the beginning. I left the studio early yesterday because the script lady misplaced the scene and Jackson Argenté wanted the scene perfectly projected so we were not allowed to ad lib the dialogue…it would have been easy to ad lib as it was not that long a script. Argenté as a director can be a real ass, funny guy at times, really serious other times. I rather suspect Jackson had some amorous monkey business up his sleeve, if you know what I mean.

“So, I left early and went to the ‘Club’ – wanted to play nine holes of golf and occupy myself with thoughts of you, how to convince you of my fidelity. At the club, in the Men’s Grill looking for a pal to play nine holes with me, I joined Avery Bascomb for a drink and forgot about golf. Avery’s the new guy from San Francisco. I introduced you two last week. He likes ‘Hollywood Gin’ as do I so we played away much of the afternoon until thoughts of you and our spat got into my brain. I began losing concentration and money. You know me, I don’t like losing, got a little angry, broke a cocktail glass, and cut my hand.

“I called Donna from the ‘Men’s Grill’ and asked her if she would call you and make you understand there was nothing going on between her and me. She said she would but needed to see me to show me something important. I balked but there was something in her voice that sounded most urgent. It was on my way to Malibu, so I decided to stop and see what her urgency was.

“Her entry chimes went crazy on my third attempt at getting her to answer the door, and they wouldn’t stop…kept on chiming. Why wasn’t she answering? We had just talked on the phone. She would not have left, knowing I was coming to see what it was she wished to show me. The chimes were driving me nuts. They just would not stop chiming.

“So, I looked through the side door-window and saw her lying in a pool of blood there on the edge of the ‘great room’ and the entry hall. I was reaching for my cell phone to call the police when the siren wailed loudly just a few yards away, like, the cops turned the siren on when they saw me stepping away from the entry.

“I looked down and saw the blood from my cut at the ‘Men’s Grill’ and so did the two cops who were answering an apparent ‘red alert’ call from Donna. The cops opened the unlocked entry door and went to the body, checked for vital signs and there were none. The cops arrested me on the spot and took me to the Santa Monica PD. I screamed all the way about the ‘Men’s Grill’ glass breakage and my cut hand. They listened intently to my ‘Men’s Grill’ story, my calling Donna, but they had to take me in. They believed me but had no choice, they said… I’ve got no idea what it was Donna wanted to show me.

“That’s my story, Mel, and it’s the honest-to-God’s truth. You’ve got to believe me. I couldn’t do anything like that. I don’t even like playing bad guys in our movies.”

“I believe you, Jeff. We will get through this. I’m sorry I doubted you. The mind can do some crazy meandering at times. The cops can easily check the ‘Men’s Grill’ for proof of your alibi. That should be enough for them to drop the charges, don’t you think?”

“Hopefully. They won’t find anything in Donna’s place that can incriminate me. I was only there the one time with you.”

“It’s all going to work out, sweetheart. You’ve told me everything, right?”

“Of course, I have. I’ve never lied to you, Melody. I love you.”

*

As trials go, Jeff’s was a breeze. The judge appeared, called the two attorneys to the stand, whispered a few words – actually, quite a few words – and the lawyers returned to their respective seats.

The judge picked up his gavel, slammed it down on the wood and announced: “This case will not be heard for insufficient findings. Case dismissed.”

Later that day, movie director Jackson Argenté was arrested for the murder of Donna Grayson, his longtime secret paramour. His fingerprints and other evidence had been found at the murder scene. It was believed by most reports that Jeff just happened on the scene at the wrong time.

It was later noted in newspaper articles that the movie director had managed through extortion and payouts to keep other affairs and angry dispositions from print and media in general. Jackson Argenté was known to have a violent temper, with eruptions quite often.

The final chapter was written when Jackson Argenté was found hanging from a crude tangle of clothes tied around his neck and somehow connected to a ventilation duct.

Jeff Germaine and Melody Maybury became husband and wife in August that year and honeymooned in the south of France.

Of course, they lived happily ever after.

Billy Ray Chitwood – August 20, 2019

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Who Am I?

Photo art by Henk van de Goor (Unsplash)

 

Who Am I?

A mere presence of blood, bone and flesh,

Collecting restless moments of time and

Memories in a swirl of delusion and desire…

A damaged derelict recording with all the

Misspent nights of neon lights and wonder,

In Bacchus search of some nebulous Nirvana.

A casual fool of vacuous vector shaping images

Fraught with a dilettante’s dribble and dash

For a delectable dalliance in Delilah’s domain.

Who Am I?

A Mockery to the wise and worldly. A clown

Dressed in gaudy colors, shouting his foolery

To all who would listen in the Devil’s Den.

Who Am I?

Surely by now you must know me!

Who Am I?

Come, sweet damsel,

 join me in a drink,

 and I shall tell you all!

 

-Billy Ray Chitwood – August 12, 2019-

 

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Believe

©Believe

Believe in the miracles inside you,

Have faith in the God who shapes your dreams,

Walk tall, to yourself be true.

 

Abide obstacles strewn along your way,

The nagging naysayers of folly,

In confidence walk each day.

 

Should not your wishes find

Fulfillment at the journey’s end,

Look skyward with peace of mind.

 

You have given in honest measure

That most noble part of your tender soul

And, in reward, heaven’s treasure.

 

So, believe in wonders yet to be,

Passing through life’s many gates

On your way to eternity.

 

©Believe

 

©Billy Ray Chitwood – August 6, 2019

 

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The Aberrant Knight

Photo Art by: Thomas Kinto – Unsplash

 

The Aberrant Knight

 

There’s ‘a man’ I met in a book where his dream and thought became one, a place in his fertile mind where a noble nomadic fool chases imagined windmills in the night, whose mind is inured to reality, who wishes to bring peace to himself, to the tired and weary peasants who labor in their masters’ causes.

 

‘He’ listened while walking the long tedious furrows of their labors and heard their soft voices humming, some singing in soulful whispers ballads of meager yesterdays or the bright tomorrows that never came. They were silent men and women who could not put the finesse, the literacy in their constant thoughts, but they bled when their skin were torn and their bodies ached from the long days in the shallow pits. Their dreams were not so unlike those who had means for fulfilling their wistful longings of the mind and of the soul, those whose fates were more clearly wise and defined.

 

‘The man’ I met in a book took me along for his evening rides, he on the back of his simple donkey, me in the adorned and flashy saddle of my great golden steed.

 

‘The gentle man’ would finally die a sorrowful and most lonely death, leaving a piece of his heart with me…

 

I have chased those windmills ‘the man’ left inside my mind. I have walked the furrowed land, heard the soft humming and singing in the pits and I fear my fate will differ little from that man who would be the patrician knight of us all.

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – August 2, 2019

 

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Summer Dreaming

 

Summer Dreaming

 

Sweet Silence surrounds me,

Save for my melodic humming

Of ‘The Wayward Wind’,

Soft, sonorous, and spacious…

Wafting, wending westward

On white cloud puffs

Of far distant dreams,

In flight and gentle frenzy

Toward more tomorrows…

 

Tis but a simple hum,

A Vagabond’s season-song

Of mythical mysteries,

Misty yearning yesterdays

Flowing, fleeting across

Lazy landscapes filled

With wistful wonder,

Sweet sorrow and regret,

A paean with gossamer wings.

 

Life takes its meanings

From fools’ frets and quests.

Minions find their way

To this poetic plateau

For the Romantic,

The jive of Jesters,

The sad throng of

Nomad Ninnies

Some will call Poets.

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 30, 2019

 

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Loco en La Cabeza

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Loco en La Cabeza

(Crazy in The Head)

 

The night became a whispering madness, a maelstrom that just might take me down its tube to hell and damnation while giving me pre-glimpses of the fire and brimstone awaiting my arrival…

 

I begin this post with a sparse attention-getter!

Well, my fevered-mind lives for these little de-facto moments, but, then, that’s what I do: I embellish. I’m an author of fictional crimes that are given birth from real true-life episodes from the underbelly of human existence. Are the books of Grade-A quality? Likely not, when one looks at the sales figures. Nonetheless, that is what I do and so enjoy doing, writing, putting my embellishing style on the words and phrases, hoping to create an appropriate atmosphere for the scenes I’m writing.

It is difficult to detach oneself from his writing and his wiring. My wiring has so many complicated turns and twist I’ve spent a wary and cautionary lifetime trying to figure me out…still, trying, for that matter. If I have learned anything in this lifetime it is this: if one has no heavy baggage, like, criminal and evil activities, it is quite okay to be who the hell you reckon yourself to be, that is, only if who you are not wreaking havoc on others…

Are you sufficiently pissed at me by now? Am I not making any sense to you, or, certainly, not enough to hold your interest?

Good!

Good, if you’re sticking around to see where I’m going with this post. Hopefully, you’re in for a treat, he writes with some degree of uncertainty himself of where the hell he’s going with this post.

I can at least promise you this, we will, all two of us, be joyful at the conclusion.

Okay, where was I?

Oh, my writing and my wiring, or, in better order, my wiring and my writing!

It is my theory that anyone who presumes to be a writer, should be able to take any phrase uttered by anyone (CAUTION! duplicate word in the same sentence!) and write a comprehensive and intelligent post from that phrase.

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned the aforementioned tip as good practice for would-be writers, giving practice to narrative stretching. It works for me – but, then, if no one likes it, maybe it does not work. But, someone (me) does like it, so that’s enough.

Writing is one of the most popular hobbies and occupations in which one can become interested…you can kill a lot of your ‘live-in demons’ with writing. Published or not published, writing is a rewarding and self-satisfying habit to get into – imagine all the diaries being kept across the world, how titillating some of those entries just might be.

About my wiring, I’ve come to accept my vagabond ways, my need to cross more mountains, my emotional edginess and wariness, those conflicting, wonderful moments of happiness and joy, my wonderful kids, my wife (okay, wives!), and the enduring heap of words I’ve piled up in my lifetime… You folks out there reading this wholesome post should be reading my books. I’ve tried to follow Ernest Hemingway’s and Andrew Joyce’s advice, write drunk, edit, sober! (Truth be known, some of my better stuff was written while a bit tipsy! That is, until my own writing began to serve as the ‘high’!)

Don’t be surprised to see the first paragraph of this post in a book I might publish in the future. I shall certainly be surprised if you are surprised and remember that opening paragraph and this rather ‘run-on’ post. But, come on now, folks, it is writing, and I am showing and telling my blog audience important tidbits.

Come on, you can give me that!

Always, my best wishes.

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 24, 2019

 

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Learning

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https://booklaunch.io/billyraychitwood/59553847c4cab27328cf4aaa

 Learning?

 Today, Brandon is a PhD, teaching at a mid-west University. My son, Brandon, ‘A Phud!’ Really!

The older mind, mine, hearkens back to his baby-days when he was playing with his plastic toys in front of a television screen. A commercial would come on interrupting a drama series we might be watching, and Brandon would stop his playing and look at the TV screen…we finally realized it was sound, voice, and color-flash differentials that caught his attention, but he kept his eyes glued to the set until regular programming continued.

Like many parents we were sure that Brandon was a precocious child and were thrilled that he picked up quickly small tidbits of learning.

Late afternoons, when I arrived home from my marketing office, Brandon and I went to the master bedroom. From the bedside table, I took a pack of playing cards and a book – usually, a novel I was reading. I would daily toss playing cards on the bed and ask my son what number he saw. It was ‘fun learning’ for him, and, soon, I would grab the novel and point to a ‘letter’ at the beginning of a chapter – you know, many novel formats are such that the first letter of the new chapter is a larger type than the ensuing text.

So, slowly, through the days, Brandon learned his letters and his numbers. He began to read early and found great enjoyment in the process, proudly giving me a capsule description of what he was reading. It was obviously such a delight to see your child still in the baby range, reading.

Then, there came a separation through no cause of his or mine. I went to Los Angeles for one week on a business trip, and, upon my return there was no wife and no Brandon.

What had escaped my notice through the months was my wife’s lack of interest in doing things, like, I would suggest we drive to the park for the day. She seemed lethargic to a point where she did not wish to go, to do… She just wanted to stay at home.

Her parents knew what I did not know, that the wife had a mental condition, a phobia for being in crowds, a psychological condition that rendered her not attentive and seemingly uncaring. I did not help her situation as I was so professionally busy and time spent at home was usually with Brandon…with only light conversation with his mother, my wife.

So, while in Los Angeles, she left me, returned to Phoenix, AZ where we had lived prior to my transfer to California, and her mother checked her in to the hospital for psychological evaluation and treatment… She left me a letter which I still have to this day, her ‘why and wherefore’ of deserting me. For her, it was her only way, departing without confrontation, without the obvious ‘hurt’ I would feel for her and Brandon leaving…

Long story short, she got better, left the hospital, but we never got back together. My mother lived in Phoenix at the time and cared for Brandon while his mother was in the hospital, and there I would visit Brandon during free space at work in California.

Brandon’s mother died too young and would not live to see his attainment of a PhD. When they moved to Minnesota where her life began, there were years I heard nothing from Brandon, knew little about his life, except helping with a monthly check for child support.

There is an inscrutable, lamentable disassociation we’ve had over the years…we talk only occasionally, when he calls, or, when I call him. It is perhaps a sad situation, but neither of us suffer too much from the absence. Our love is there. It’s somehow ‘parked’ in a place we each never want to meet. My pride at his accomplishment is there, and, somehow, we both know of our love for each other. That has to be enough.

Of my other three children, Scott and Shelley are my pride and joy, and we do communicate on a regular basis. Steven Ray died while in a Las Vegas nursing home.

So, I’ve written much of this in two memoirs, and won’t be writing another. There is some burning wish to make people aware of my personal life when there is no damned reason to do so. I figure it must be further effort to cleanse somehow my soul.

Why did I write this?

Damned if I know!

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 18, 2019

 

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Dream

Photo art by Aaron Andrew Ang – Unsplash

 

Dream

 

To dream is to escape!

To escape is to free yourself!

To free yourself is to disappear!

To disappear to visit your Soul!

To visit your Soul is to create!

To create is to dazzle your senses!

To dazzle your senses is to be bold!

To be bold is to be new with yourself!

To be new with yourself is to view life on your terms!

To view life on your terms is to give the world a piece of you!

To give the world a piece of you is to go beyond imposed limits!

To go beyond imposed limits is to find a magical you!

To find a magical you is to give expression…

To the magical you!

In a chosen Art!

Go beyond imposed limits!

Show a piece of you!

On your terms!

Being bold with the new you!

Dazzling even yourself!

Creating what you find beautiful!

Calming your soul with your creations!

Disappearing in that new, free, world of Creation!

Escaping the world’s mock-up and foolery!

In those dreams to which you have escaped!

A marvelous revelation that comes for your salvation!

To Dream is to live and escape the surly bonds!

There, high above the clouds of reality and Man-made truth!

 

B R Chitwood – July 14, 2019

 

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©The Chameleons

©The Chameleons

By

 Billy Ray Chitwood

 

Beware, the chameleons!

 

They’re everywhere…

 

Classified as ‘highly specialized clade of Old World’ lizards’ adept at changing colors to blend into different environments, but I’m writing here about the human ‘chameleons’, that deceptive and manipulative breed of seemingly common folks who can play and often prey on our good, honest, and innocent Homo sapiens.

 

Take the case of Jeffrey Bullock and Catherine Santos…

 

Now, it is true that Jeffrey is a handsome man with a Grecian face punctured and set with blue eyes and an automatic upper and lower lip that can be in turn persuaded to change with the course of a conversation. Those blue eyes and remarkable lips can turn a conversation into a thing of academic beauty, with his alternating simulations of eyebrows, eye intensity – or, lack, thereof – in sync and on pitch with every word conveyed by and to him. He is without question a master in the art of listening and speaking. Jeffrey is also a pleasingly muscular six-feet height, his smooth ‘copper-tone’ complexion virtually glows in any light, and his body-fat repellence completes his ridiculously excellent physique.

 

It is likewise true that Catherine is a beautiful lady, her long auburn tresses with a lovely flow below her shoulders, her eyes as green as the verdant rolling hills of ‘The Emerald Isle’. Her body is a molding befitting a Goddess, and she too has that copper-tone skin so devastatingly delicate that surely makes her apparitional and beyond any earthly description. Her voice is like a box of music that issues forth a softness of melodious and mellifluous sounds to hold captive any male suitor or enviable and doting female. Catherine stands tall and glorious at her five feet, eight inches, making all shorter men want to kill themselves, the taller men, salivating and ignominiously servile.

 

These two would-be Mythical-like Grecian Deities ostensibly meet on the first afternoon of their ten-day luxury cruise in the Caribbean Islands, she, apparently finishing a ‘jog’, coming to the pool deck bar for a thirst quencher of vodka-tonic, accidentally stumbling, spilling her newly acquired libation in front of our aforementioned Adonis who is enjoined in conversation with another pretty young lady much too young and naïve for any kind of Adonis bonding.

 

In a believable, gallant display of nonchalance and brevity with the young lady, Jeffrey stands from his kneeling position and apologizes vigorously to the modestly attentive Catherine who turns and returns to the bar for another vodka-tonic. Following, insisting on his buying her drink for his knee-bending chatter with the young lady, Catherine shakes her head negatively, and speaks with a near timorous response. “No, I can pay for my own drinks. It was a simple accident. No harm done. Thank you for offering.”

 

Her drink order fulfilled, she brushes past Jeffrey and finds a seat in the middle of chatty sunbathers.

 

The sunbathers are a steady hum of noise and many eyes are following Catherine’s moves, either, openly without deception, or, with. In truth, no one can reasonably fault the onlookers. Catherine Santos is a rare beauty among so many who could be counted among the simply, beautiful. She sits alone for some moments, staring at the enormous cobalt sea that stretches as far as the eyes can see. Only the most daring of handsome men would seek an entrée to Catherine Santos…only Catherine would know the loneliness that came with her incredible loveliness.

 

Then, there is one qualifier that makes a fool of many men, perhaps, in more ways than one. That Qualifier is alcohol – drinking alcohol, that is. A most reasonable sequitur from that conclusion is an imbiber with too much juice running through his veins will find enough courage from a ‘high’ on booze to enter that world of beauty and glamour. Three such inebriates approached Catherine Santos there by the pool, the last of the three causing quite a stir and an embarrassing security escort back to his cabin and his sober wife. The first two sobered fast, left Catherine’s presence meekly and was soon gone from the pool area – either, losing a buddy bet, or, embarrassed by all the snickers in the crowded pool area.

 

Though her drink was only half-finished, Jeffrey brought another drink to her table and requested a brief chat. To the crowd, Catherine showed a nod of ‘no’ and a solemn but pleasant enough dismissal. Yet, he lingered briefly with something said that made her smile. Then, he left.

 

Later, sumptuous dinners were served in a cozy, softly lit gourmet restaurant that only served those passengers who had purchased that cruise option. The wealthier cruisers preferred the more intimate personal service given at The Golden Interval in lieu of the big dining rooms with hundreds of people vying for service. Romantic violin music played slow, delicately even strokes just beneath the conversations in the lovely adorned Crimson and Gold room.

 

Among the diners was Catherine Santos. She sat alone at a small table, conspicuous in her attempt not to be so, dressed in a lovely rose-colored sarong, her beauty accentuated even further by the simple hint of roses. Also, there seated some few tables away was an attractive couple in their forties, smiling, being amused by none other than the charming Jeffrey Bullock. The couple had been poolside earlier in the day to witness the farcical Jesters in their sophomoric attempt to woo Catherine.

 

Jeffrey finally noticed Catherine and stopped abruptly in his monologue. “Please excuse me, Reggie and Deb, would you mind my inviting a lone soul to join us – that is, unless she would prefer being alone?” The couple smiled and nodded an approval.

 

Jeffrey rose and went to Catherine’s table, but was back in very short order and announced to his two recently met friends, “The lady prefers to dine alone and I’m reluctant to admit my embarrassment.”

 

“Don’t be embarrassed, Jeffrey,” was the quick and cheery reply from Deborah Weeden, wife of Reginald, aka, Reggie.

 

“It’s her misfortune, my boy. We enjoy your company. In fact, after dinner, we hope you can attend with us the ‘Special Art Auction’ on Deck Seven’. There are to be some recent original oils by Evan Sloan Glasgow in various nouveau and original ‘scene-sets’ and some Landscapes, Seascapes by Luther Blankenship. We would really enjoy having you with us at the auction…”

 

“Unfortunately, I was not invited. I understand the auction is by ‘Invitation Only’, though I thank you so much for the thought.”

 

“Bosh! Jeffrey, we’re inviting you. We can bring anyone we wish. You will come with us. I shall pull ‘age-rank’ on you, young man and treat you as we might our own son… Now, one more Gibson before dinner. The food is quite marvelous here, Jeffrey, as you might already know, and the Cabernet will add to the overall enjoyment of our meal.”

 

Deborah added to Reggie’s command, “We are so glad we met you, Jeffrey, in the gaming room earlier. By the stack of chips in front of you, it appeared you did quite well for yourself. For some inscrutable reason, I love gambling on these cruises…something about the sea, I suppose. But, then, that’s part of the fun of ‘Cruising’, gambling, meeting new people. I know Reggie and I have continued friendships with those we’ve met on our many cruises…”

 

So, the three talked through their dinner, nodded to Catherine as she had to pass their table in exiting the Golden Interval. She smiled sweetly to Deborah and Reginald but barely acknowledged Jeffrey.

 

One hour later, the trio exited the glass elevator on Deck Seven and entered the ‘Private Invitation Only Art Auction’. Seating was arranged by name of attendees and the comfortable chairs were given numbers to match the guest roster. Some thirty-one people were in attendance for the auction and these were without doubt the wealthiest of all passengers on board.

 

The big surprise for the dinner trio was the presence of Catherine Santos at the auction. She was seated just behind the three new friends. With a quick phone call, Jeffrey’s name was added to the attendance list and seating next to his two new friends was arranged.

 

There was a buzz of anticipation in the small crowd, and the noise outside the auction room was audible but not disconcerting. Deck Seven was given to Art Auctions, a Library, Fast Foods of various sorts, and, for the runners, a jogging oval set apart from the strollers.

 

As a result of the ‘Art Auction’, the Weeden couple winning bids bought them a rare and beautiful Luther Blankenship Seascape extraordinaire, a Glasgow ‘Still-life’, and a magnificent Glasgow ‘Lake House’ oil painting, leaving the attendees agog with the colors represented in the painting. Jeffrey Bullock was impressed with the artist-minded couple with whom he had spent the evening. Jeffrey bid a few times but dropped out when the bidding became too formidable.

 

As fate would have it, the same was true of Catherine Santos. She seemed to desperately want the Glasgow ‘Lake House’ oil but was outbid by an elderly lady in the back row of seats, who was herself, ultimately outbid by Deborah Weeden.

 

At the end of the auction, Reggie turned to Catherine Santos and asked her to join them in their huge and high-end expensive suite. Catherine surprised the group with an affirmative response.

 

The opulent suite had a garden area along with its four plush rooms and a large outer deck for night-time sea-gazing. Both Catherine Santos and Jeffrey Bullock commented on the suite’s beauty without too many lavish-laced phrases. It was not lost on the hosts the carefully worded praise of their suite. It was indeed a formidable penthouse of the Sea, and the group enjoyed their time together. Before the consumption levels reached near the foolish folly level, Catherine was the first to leave with gracious utterings and sleepy eyes. Ten minutes later, Jeffrey left the suite, with a ‘glow’ and gratitude for a fine evening.

 

Before the partings from the suite, the group promised to meet next evening for dinner at the Golden Interval.

 

*

 

“So, what do you think? Is it a ‘Go’ or a ‘No Go’?”

 

“Of course, it’s a ‘Go’. Why else are we here?”

 

“Just asking…there are times when you feel uncomfortable. Just making sure you’re good with the ‘mark’.”

 

“I’m good with the ‘mark’. Did you see something I didn’t see?”

 

“No, not really, just that I can smell a ‘con’ a mile off, just…”

 

“Just, ‘what’?”

 

“Well, the guy is talking some ‘investment scheme’ which is a ‘scam’ but he thinks I’m a big hitter with millions. I’ve got him thinking the investment scheme sounds good and something I might be interested in. I’m playing along like it’s a possibility, plus I told him I was in a winning zone at the casino tables. He thinks I’m going for the investment scheme, if not during the cruise, then, at a later date.”

 

“So, what’s the problem?”

 

“You are my problem. I love you, and I don’t want you getting hurt in all of this. Do I think the guy is dangerous, like, a killer? No, but I need to feel that out just a bit more before committing to the scam. I’ll sleep on it, but Im 90% sure at this point. She’s making a big hit in the casino, and I mean BIG. I stood behind her, and, in just those few minutes, she pulled in more than three hundred grand plus. Those winnings will be wired from the ship into an already huge account. She loves gambling on Cruise ships. Don’t ask me, why, because I don’t have a clue. People are funny in their gambling habits. I do know she wins on the sea and she keeps coming back. We get paid off when the ship wires the money to her bank.”

 

“We can’t do it if you’ve got the ‘feeling’. We agreed at the beginning – if we are not 100% sure about a ‘mark’ or something seems weird, we don’t go on.”

 

“Yeah, I know. Let me sleep on it. If the feeling is still there in the morning, we pull it off the table. And, yeah, I know, this might be the biggest ‘hit’ we’ve ever made…and, the last. We’ve got to get serious about our future.”

 

“Why won’t you tell me how you got the wiring transaction numbers on this mark, and, how does it work?”

 

“Because my source knows nothing about you, and I intend to keep it that way. You don’t need to know the operation. It would make you much more vulnerable. I can tell you it’s a simple system that cannot be traced back. We get the money wired into our proxy account and no one knows us and how we did it. It’s a new untraceable electronic wiring program. I couldn’t tell you even if I knew how it works… By the way, I believe our new-buddy thinks I’m either gay or a misogynist.”

 

“And?”

 

“And, what?”

 

“Are you one of those things?”

 

“What…! I’m going to give you a good spanking, lady! Stop giggling and tell me you don’t harbor thoughts like that.”

 

“Well, I’ve been told…” There was playful chase in the limited space. “Stop tickling me, you brute! You know I’m kidding… Stop tickling…”

 

“Gonna behave?”

 

“Yes, master!” There was one more tickle and the playful activity was finished. “Seriously, Sweetheart, make me a promise: can this be our last gig?”

 

“Yes, most definitely. It’s time we began enjoying the fruits of our labors…”

 

More playful activity came, but this time it was sensitive, soft, beautiful.

 

*

 

Four ports of call and ten lazy, lovely sunny days on the briny, the cruise ended in Miami, Florida. In that time Jeffrey and Catherine had become seemingly very close. In the eyes of new friends, Reginald and Deborah Weeden, the sparkle and spontaneity that their Cruise play pals gave off indicated as much

 

The Cruise Ship’s speakers announced disembarking instructions while both Jeffrey and Reggie left the ladies and luggage in The Garden Suite to visit the Chief Purser for the settling of their bills.

 

On the pier, there were hugs and jolly goodbyes with promises to get again together for another cruise, or, simply to visit each other. There seemed a most sincere bonding of the group, and each couple looked back in their strides to wave.

 

“Nice couple, really. It seems…”

 

“Yes, very nice…don’t go there. ‘Sorry’ is a miserable place to visit. Just remember, they were after what we have. We just beat them to the punch.”

 

*

 

The door slammed making her jump with fright. He called her name and she relaxed.

 

When he walked into the living-room she knew there had to be bad news.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

“We have no money, that’s what’s wrong!”

 

“What! Don’t do this…it’s not funny!”

 

“You’re telling me, ‘it’s not funny’? Jeez, you don’t see me laughing, do you? WE HAVE NO MONEY! Zilch! Zero! Account empty!”

 

“But you wired the money aboard ship. How can that be?”

 

“How the hell do I know? So? ‘How can that be’, you ask? There is no money in our account! That’s how it can be! There is no money, period. No ship casino money…no millions we had in the account. NO MONEY!

 

“Maybe, it’s just not in yet! Oh, you mean, the money we had in the account is gone, too? Oh, my God!”

 

“Jeez, you’re dense! Wired money is NOW-money? Yes, the account money and the casino winnings, all gone! Why…”

 

There was an insistent ringing of the front doorbell.

 

“I’ll get it,” he said.

 

She followed him to the door.

 

He yanked the door open!

 

“Nice place you have here, Mr. and Mrs. Weeden. You two are under arrest! Put your hands behind your back. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney…You…”

 

*

 

“You’re serious? You want to get married?” Catherine – real name, Sherrie Malcomb, asked in disbelief.

 

“Yeah, I’m serious,” answered Jeffrey, real name, Gibson ‘Gibby’ Tierney, “Why would you think I’m not serious? You know how I feel about you, and you say you love me, so let’s do it. We have a major chunk of money now for a huge honeymoon – not too gaudy and/or too showy to call attention to us…”

 

“Wait, no one knows it was us, do they? You said. ‘anonymous’ made it known to the police.”

 

“That’s right! Someone ‘Deborah’ and ‘Reggie’ fleeced on their previous cruise. Not to worry, it’s our pay for getting the job done. Don’t you just love a ‘double-con’?!” The two lovable ‘con artists’ enjoy a chuckle and embrace. “So, do I go to my knees to propose, or, are you gonna save me from bruising my knees?”

 

“You’re not much of a Candlelight and Wine guy, are you?” Sherrie smiled, as they embraced – sealing the deal.

 

“I’m saving that for our first night in The Garden Suite, my love…”

 

TaleEnd!

 

Billy Ray Chitwood – July 11, 2019

 

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