Storied Past – 12

In the O R, medical practitioners in blue scrubs darted back and forth with efficiency and skill. At one point, the patient nearly required no more attention as his heart flat-lined, but after quick work by the med team and recent fervent prayer by Marcy, he was brought back from the brink.

Three hours and forty-five minutes later, they were able to deliver him into a room in ICU to wait for his destiny. The fifty-something year old man in the next bed inquired about who was bunking with him. The male nurse only shared that he had been in an accident and needed time to recover.

“How awful,” he thought. “I wonder if I know him. Hope he has good insurance.”

A smallish town like Maple Valley does one thing really well—gossip. By 10:30, the coffee establishment, Holy Grounds Coffee Company was buzzing with details of the accident just down the street. Few people seemed to know many facts but speculation was in abundance.

For instance, the mystery man at the center of the story was unknown but several people suggested it might have been a young man on their block. An older, farmer type gentleman even called the neighbor in question only to be told, “No, it wasn’t my boy, he’s still sleeping.”

Ed Hammberg, the truck driver in the accident, was a wreck himself. He kept telling the other employees at the beer distributorship where he worked that he, “just didn’t see him, I just didn’t see anybody! All of a sudden there he was and I couldn’t do nuthin’ but hit him. I prob’ly killed him; I’m goin’ to jail for sure this time.” His supervisor finally sent him home insisting that he take something and get some rest.

Ramona awoke as the scratchy loudspeaker intoned the imminent schedule. “Bus leaving at 8:05 for Chehalis, Centralia, Tumwater, Olympia, Lacey and points north. Please step out to the bus for your driver to check tickets. Thank you.”

A quick glance at her phone told her she had 12 minutes to get a ticket and head out to the curb. Stiff and cold from the long night on the old oak bench gave her a bit of an attitude. But gathering her thoughts and recalling why she had to sleep on the “far-cry-from-a-Beautyrest” reminded her of the sudden itinerary reversal.

She tore over to the ticket counter. Inquiring whether her destination was for sure in the 8:05 departure, the agent assured her in the affirmative that she would be back home by 1:00 p.m.

It was brisk outside, as she queued up behind two others waiting for the driver to check them on. A cast of big, billowy white and grey clouds moved with synchronous beauty against a rich, deep blue background, illuminated brightly by earth’s closest star.

Maybe her luck was finally changing. That was a shallow thought! She was taught that luck had nothing to do with our lives as Christians. Everything was either in or out of God’s will.

“Ticket please,” the driver requested.

She found a seat near the back hoping that this time she could sit alone. She didn’t want a repeat performance of her last ride! After a few minutes the bus backed out headed for the freeway. Her neighboring seat remained empty.

“Excellent,” she reckoned. “I might even recover some sleep from last night’s miserable experience. At least the seats have some padding.”

Closing her eyes, her thoughts wandered. She felt a twinge of . . . hope; a topic of thought that had been lost back there somewhere. These unusual events appeared to imply that this might be a day offering the nearest thing to hope Ramona had felt for several months.

Maybe it was the “Angel Unaware” Edith experience that caused this feeling. Maybe it was the eerily prophetic baby articles that prompted this expectant promise of near optimism. In any case, fear and anxiety for the future shrunk just a modicum allowing this strange, forgotten feeling of hope to resurface.

Another awareness crept up; this one from a place deeper inside her. Going so far away from home for the reason that had motivated her was really terribly self-centered. Actually, her whole life these last few years had been somewhat; ok, a lot self-centered. But was she only thinking of herself? What was wrong with that? Since turning thirteen or so, she knew she had become more contrary of her parents’ wishes and direction.

Not grasping that disagreement is often a typical behavior that arises from a child differentiating from parents, her sub-conscious defaulted to her religious training for answers. Obedience to the Pastor and her parents was tantamount to obedience to God. “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect,” scripture said and God expected perfection!

This rebellion on the outside had now borne fruit on the inside. Not only had Ramona gone out and sinned against God and everybody else, she wanted to erase that sin by running away and even murdering an unborn child. As she thought now, this had to be a completely self-centered pursuit. She could never be perfect again. She was ruined. She was doomed to hell and she knew it.

But if that was the case why did she feel hope? Wasn’t her sin beyond hope? Could she ever be free from shame and guilt again? Wasn’t sex outside of marriage unforgivable, like divorce?

Becky finished dressing and reached for her phone.

“Hey, Jeremy.”

“Hey, Becky. Did you hear about that bad accident yesterday?”

“Yeah. In fact Marcy called me because she was there when it happened.”

“Oh, that’s awful! Is Marcy doing ok?

“Well, that’s why I was calling. I want to find her and take her with me to see the guy in the hospital; to see how he’s doing. Want to go with us?”

“Sure, let me finish a few more sentences on my blog and I will meet you.” Jeremy was a part time journalist/writer/author of Christianity and culture themed topics. “At the hospital then?”

“That works just fine. Say in an hour? I need to be at work this afternoon.”

Becky headed out to find Marcy. She was homeless but there were some predictable areas of downtown she could usually be found. Today was no exception. Becky found her engaged in animated conversation with a street friend. Marcy stopped when she saw Becky approaching.

“Morning, Marcy. I am headed to the hospital to see the young man that was in the accident. Want to tag along?”

“Yep, I sure do! I was just telling my friend Robin here all about it. Turrible accident! I’m s’prised if he din’t git kilt! I’m s’prised if he din’t. Do you think he’s dead, Becky?” She asked excitedly.

“I think we would have heard, Marcy. But I’m meeting Jeremy there in a few minutes. Let’s you and I see if we can find him.”

“Awright. But we prayed so I think he’s gonna be there. He might need to git well but he’s gonna be there, I just know.”

Finding Jeremy and the room where the young man was quartered proved fairly easy. After all, since this was a fairly small town, this was not a large facility.

She went up to the top floor to Room 314 and as she entered she started to walk past the first patient toward the back bed.

She glanced at the first bed’s occupant.

“Oh, Mr. Beckett! I wasn’t . . . I guess I didn’t think you . . . how are you feeling?”

Ordinary People

So here we are at the final holiday season of 2014; for some, a time of merriment and celebration. For others, looking toward the New Year recalls regrets of the past and a heightened determination to change certain painful aspects of their lives; maybe lose some extra pounds or give more back to the community.

You may be thinking about repairing some broken relationship or that promise to meet with God more this next year. That’s all good stuff. I wish you well and truly hope you succeed.

I think this coming year will be an opportunity to flesh out the stewardship of my own part in the Kingdom of God. As I read and think about that, I have swerved into an interesting conundrum. But I think it helps me as I try to understand and process what an environment of Shalom might look like.

Jesus and St. Paul seem to be on different pages or maybe even a different playbook. But as I have often come to realize, my preconception or misunderstanding was skewed in some way that prevented me from a truth.

Get a load of this. I have often quoted the Great Co-mission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus exits his short human stay on this earth.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.”

It seems that our job description is pretty clear here. Make disciples, get ‘em dunked and then teach them to do likewise. Of course, there is that bit about obeying all the commands, but generally we seem to see this directive as a mandate for 24/7 evangelism.

However, Paul seems to have a different slant on our mission.

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.” 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

As I have been suggesting in this blog since July of this year, I want to tease out what the Kingdom of God looks like and our part in facilitating that. While some may want to sit around on clouds and strum harps forever, that hardly seems appealing to me. I have gifts and skills that I am not really willing to give up in favor of harping. But that is a digression/soap box apart and for a different blog.

Really, what Paul is admonishing is for us to be extraordinarily ordinary. For 20+ years Jesus himself followed the trade of his adopted father working with wood and improving the lives of the neighbors with skillful, artful creations (I knew my own woodcraft hobby was blessed!).

How do we resolve these two seemingly disparate vocational directives? Are they really contradictory? Are they really two pieces of the same whole mission?

I think, along with others, that to be a disciple includes all that God intended from the start of creation. That is, I believe that as God directed us to tend the earth, multiply, create and improve our environment, He also intended for us to influence and care for others who need to see that the life changing power of the Message actually works in real life.

Preaching to the lost is necessary. There are those with that calling who do it well. Going to remote areas of civilization to share Good News is an imperative. There are those called to do that and do it well. Feeding and caring for the poor are a must, as that is one of Jesus’ primary commands, as alluded to above.

Coupled with all of these are the normal needs of everyday living. To be a good neighbor, responsible citizens, caring parents and other duties of humanity really make the teachings of Jesus attractive to those outside of God’s family. Without credible firsthand evidence that salvation really works outside the church Monday through Saturday who would be convinced to follow these platitudes?

Michael E. Wittmer makes this point in his book; Heaven is a Place on Earth:

“Before we can reasonably expect unbelievers to accept our faith we must first show them that it works—in our homes, on the job, and on the weekend—not merely when we are at church.”

Some are called to a level of public visibility and scrutiny most of us will never be required to experience. The rest of us fulfill our call in everyday, ordinary faithfulness by living so that those who are not believers will respect the way we live and be attracted to Jesus.

Reminds me of this song by Mom Winans:

Just ordinary people
God uses ordinary people
He chooses people just like me and you
Who are willing to do as He commands

God uses people that will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you
Because little becomes much
As you place it in the Masters hand

Oh, just like that little lad
Who gave Jesus all he had
How the multitude was fed
With a fish and loaves of bread

What you have may not seem much
But when you yield it to the touch
Of the Master’s loving hand
Then you will understand how
Your life could never be the same

Just ordinary people
God uses ordinary people
He chooses people just like me and you
Who are willing to do as He commands

God uses people that will give Him all
No matter how small your all may seem to you
Because little becomes much
As you place it in the Masters hand

So, go ahead and enjoy 2015 as it is gracefully parceled out to you. It is made extra-ordinary by the normal, ordinary walking out life every day as we join God in his Kingdom arrival.

Storied Past – 9

Becky called the names Marlowe had given her. The second girl, Rachel, answered.

“Oh, I don’t really know where she could be. I haven’t talked to her since, well since she left church and kinda went into sin. She could be anyplace. Did you check that saloon, or whatever?” Rachel said.

“No, I haven’t, but thank you for the lead.” No answer on the third girl’s phone either.

“I’m not sure what to do now, Jeremy.”

“How about asking someone who does know?” he suggested.

“I’m sorry. You are so right! I’ve been a bit consumed by the crisis here and I forgot what I really should be doing first.” She bowed her head slightly. “Father, we really need some help here. Would you please show us, or lead us to Ramona? Whatever she decides to do next could impact her life forever and she needs some friends with her.”

“Thank you, Lord,” Jeremy finished.

“Duh!” Becky suddenly exclaimed. “Why don’t I just call her?” Her voice rose a bit in pitch at the end in a rhetorical question. Jeremy’s eyes rolled back in his head.

“I can’t believe we didn’t think of that already!” She scrolled down to Ramona’s number and tapped it.

 

Ramona nervously paced back and forth across the large waiting area at the bus station. The room was empty except for a sleeping pan-handler or two, and an older, sweet looking lady carrying a small bag.

A few minutes earlier she had purchased a ticket to some California town, Rancho something-or-other. She didn’t really care where she went. She just thought that any place in California would be safe and far enough away that she could start over. With the few hundred dollars or so she had saved, at least she could get a room somewhere, pay for the procedure and hopefully find a job before she ran out of money. If only she could stop this insistent, naggy voice deep down inside that was disagreeing with this whole line of reasoning!

She felt her phone vibrate and then ring. She looked at the number that popped up; Becky Moore!

“No, I just can’t talk to her right now,” she thought as she let it go to voicemail. “She will just try to talk me out of this.”

The monotone loudspeaker voice sounded bored as it announced the arrival of her ride south. She walked to the door indicated by the voice and waited. The sweet, old lady approached and smiled at her.

“Hello. You must be going on my bus, too.” Her smile was disarming and friendly to the point that Ramona couldn’t ignore her.

“Uh, yes, I guess so.” She kind of reminded her of her grandmother. She died when Ramona was only six years old but left such a wonderful memory.

“My name is Edith. Would you care to share a seat with me? I could use some company.”

Ramona really didn’t want conversation with anyone but maybe she would be kind and gentle, like her grandmother. She decided to take a risk anyway. Maybe “Edith” would go to sleep.

“OK, sure.”

 

Becky hung up her phone.

“No answer, Jeremy. Well, I can try again later. I don’t have any other ideas, do you?”

“Do you think she might leave town?” he posited.

“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t heard of any doctors who do that sort of surgery here in Maple Valley. Maybe she would leave. Let’s drop by the bus station before we head home. It’s only a few blocks away.”

“Sounds good to me,” Jeremy said.

They left the coffee shop and walked toward the Pub-Trans station. As they approached the block where the station was, they had to pause while a big interstate bus turned in front of them.

“Oh, I hope she’s not on that one!” Jeremy moaned. They tried looking in the windows but they were all darkened by the tint and couldn’t make out any faces.

 

At that moment, Ramona looked out past Edith. Her heart nearly stopped as she recognized Becky waiting to cross the street. As the blood drained from her face, which must have had a look of horror as well, Edith asked, “Are you alright dear? You look worried about something.”

“I’m OK; I just . . . may have forgotten to turn the iron off. Well, no worries, it goes off after thirty minutes. I’m fine.”

“Oh, that’s a relief. Well, where are you going; to visit some relatives?” Edith asked.

“No. I don’t know anyone where I’m going.” She suddenly realized what she had said and knew that statement made her vulnerable to more lines of questioning from this Edith lady. But Edith didn’t pursue the unintentional blunder.

“Oh, that’s lovely!” Edith said. “What a great adventure you must be looking forward to!”

The statement sounded like her grandmother, too. Come to think of it; she had a slight resemblance to Grandma Beckett. She was short, plumpish and smelled of lavender.

“Yes. It will be an adventure, I’m sure.” Ramona returned. The way she said it, she was sure she didn’t sound very convincing.

“I’m off on an adventure, too!” Edith shared. “It is completely new territory for me. I’m going to a retirement village down near the Oregon border. All of my things are there already and I am excited to meet my new friends.”

“Meet . . . your . . . new . . . friends?” Ramona asked haltingly. “How can they be friends and you haven’t met them yet? Doesn’t make sense.”

“Well, you ARE right. I don’t know them yet but I am sure I will like them. I have peace about my future and I know everything that happens to me will be special. I am so blessed!”

This sounded a little too disconnected from experience for her taste. She felt special all right; like, specially taken for an idiot and especially in trouble now! But blessed? All she felt was cursed; cursed to a life controlled by everyone but her.

“How can you feel so confident about your future? I’m not sure about tomorrow but I intend to take control of my future and do what I want to do.”

“Oh no, my dear. I didn’t mean I am in control. Usually it’s quite the opposite. I just mean that I am alright with what is coming tomorrow because I trust the process and who is actually in control. Every day is challenging but I am grateful for it. I meet new people; like you for instance, and I only want to try to be kind and love people because I know I am loved and valued.”

“Hmmm. I thought I was loved but it seemed like it was only when I obeyed rules; not just loved for who I am. And, I was not valued after I was taken advantage of, for sure!” She ended with an edge of venom in her voice.

This did not go unnoticed by her seat companion. “We have all been taken advantage of at some time or other,” Edith shared. “I married young. My husband was a charmer but he had a drinking problem. He used to come home and physically abuse me and the children. Then . . . well, he would fall asleep after he had his way with me. I had quite a painful time for several years.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Ramona was sincerely moved. “What happened then?”

“Well, he met with an accident on his way home one night. I was so bitter. Not that he was gone but that I let him abuse me and the children for so long.”

“You don’t seem bitter now,” Ramona said. “How did you get over it?”

“Well dear, I don’t know whether you can ever “get over” an experience like that. The scars are so deep. But I met someone who helped me learn to forgive him and myself. That was the best thing that could have happened. The memories are painful but they are in the past. I try to live each day with a joyful spirit while being at peace with the future.”

“Wow! I wish I could be at peace with the future. I mean, I’m going to make my own future and it will be what I want but I don’t know about the peaceful part yet. There will be some trouble and hard times before I get there, no doubt.”

Edith looked directly at her. “Yes . . . there will be some trouble and hard times. But you will come through all of that just fine. Just remember how you felt when you were a little girl. Remember how your faith and trust was so strong in Jesus? Get back to that place and you will be peaceful.”

Ramona teared up. She glanced away out the opposite window to keep Edith from seeing her cry. Yes! She remembered a time when life seemed simpler. Her faith was strong and she used to talk to God a lot! How she missed those times, but they seemed so long ago and far from reality now. How many bridges had she crossed and how many were burned that might be keeping her from getting back to that place?

She discreetly wiped her eyes and turned back to Edith. “I just don’t know if I can . . .”

She froze in mid-sentence. No one was sitting next to her.

– To Be Continued –

Storied Past – 7

Ramona sank down into the stout hospital chair next to his bed. She hadn’t figured her father struggled with anything. He was always so settled and determined when it came to his faith. He seemed to act with unquestioned commitment as he dutifully followed the Pastor’s directives. If he, the one who was so careful to do the right thing, the one who always backed the Pastor fully, the one who was always there at church even if he was sick, if HE had questions . . . well, how could she ever make it?

That brought back a memory that made her shudder. In her mind she could hear a ditty that two of her friends sang years ago. Pastor Marlowe loved it! He had them sing it several times in front of everyone. One verse went like this:

“If we all backed our pastor, our pastor, our pastor
If we all backed our pastor, how happy we’d be.
When your friends are my friends and our friends are God’s friends
If we all backed our pastor, how happy we’d be.”

Well, she wasn’t happy! Maybe other people in the church thought it was because she wasn’t “backing the Pastor.” But, her dad was. Why didn’t he act happy then?

“You’ve been awfully quiet. What are you thinking about?” She snapped back to the reality of the sterile hospital room.

“Nothing, Dad. Um, did Mom always go along with Pastor Marlowe’s preaching? I mean, did she agree with all the rules and stuff?”

“Well, we had, shall I say, spirited conversations about different things. Sometimes when he had a Bible teaching about something, she would disagree. I always thought Pastor meant well and was truly concerned about making sure we were ready for Heaven.”

Ramona was puzzled. She had the impression that her mother was pretty supportive. She never talked bad about him anyway. Well, there WAS that time that Sister Jacobs had all the girls line up on their knees to check how short their dresses were. Her mom was not happy about that but what could she do?

The duty nurse slipped into the room. “I think we should let your father rest for a while now. Pretty big ordeal he’s been through today!”

“Sure.” Ramona said. “I’ll see you later, Dad.” He didn’t respond. He had drifted off to sleep.

Ramona was deep in thought as she exited the hospital. The distinct medical smells from inside were supplanted by the organic wetness of nature outside. The crispness of this spring evening was such a contrast and seemed to portend a feeling she couldn’t quite identify; something peculiar. Was it simply the known promise of the approaching warmth of summer? Was it the impending unknown experience this life growing inside her would bring?

A baby would change her life trajectory, of course. Many times in the last few weeks this thought had both frightened her and brought anxiety. She struggled to picture a daily routine which included feeding, smelly diapers, tiptoeing at nap time, the inevitable noise of a crying child, the virtual death of her social life. She didn’t want her future completely hijacked by a baby!

As she walked the fifteen or so blocks back to Becky’s, a possible solution she once rejected out of hand took form on the shadowy horizon of her consciousness. She needed to find a doctor though.

She had to figure it out; needed to think this thing through. It made sense because she just wasn’t ready; besides people did it all the time. How could she get a job with a baby? It would be too hard!

She tried not to think it might be a solution she could regret later but she was already filled with guilt and regret. With a baby she would still have that, plus the added burden of being responsible for a child. At least with an abortion she would only have guilt and regret.

Becky pulled a couple of shots of espresso to add to the Americano she was making. She had been thinking about Ramona all afternoon.

“Lord, how can I help her see you?” she breathed. “I know that her church experience has been hurtful and right now her faith is especially vulnerable. Let me just be a friend to her and listen.”

“Paul, your Americano is ready. Paul?

A good looking guy stepped up to claim the drink. “Thanks! Hey, what time do you get off work?” he asked.

“In a few minutes,” she returned, “but I have plans. Thanks anyway.”

“Well maybe some other time?” he offered.

“Probably not. My boyfriend wouldn’t like it.”

“Oooooo. Ok then. Have a nice life.”

He turned and walked out, to Becky’s relief. She clocked out and went to get her coat. Leaving the small shop she headed to her apartment.

Ramona was standing at the back kitchen window when Becky walked in. She hung her coat on the hall tree and walked across the small room to the overstuffed chair. She waited to see if Ramona would acknowledge her presence.

Seconds seeming like minutes passed and finally Becky ventured, “Ramona, you Ok?”

“Does God forgive all kinds of sins, forever?” Ramona asked, almost monotone.

“Yes, yes, of course Ramona. He has already forgiven all of your sins and mine. You know this; that Jesus died once for all of us and for all time. Sin has been paid for completely and entirely. You are forgiven.”

“Well, I don’t feel forgiven.” She shot back. “I feel dirty, I feel rejected, I feel embarrassed, I feel wronged, I feel like I’ve disappointed God, my family, church and I’ve gone too far, made too many mistakes and used up all of God’s patience.” She was gathering steam now. “That’s why I’m pregnant! God is punishing me because I went too far this time. I didn’t listen to him or the Pastor and now I have to pay for it.”

Ramona turned to face Becky. There were tears running down her face from reddened eyes. Becky was moved deeply as she sensed the pain Ramona was trying to express. But the next statement from Ramona shook her.

“I am going to fix part of the problem.” Her voice was strong and resolute now. “I can’t let a baby ruin the rest of my life. I need all my energy to get back on track. So since God forgives sins forever, I’m about to commit one more.”

“Ramona, how can I help?” Becky hoped this would slow down the girl’s speedy journey into more trouble.

“Well, for starters, you can take your “God stuff” and stuff it where the sun don’t shine! I’m tired of everybody’s sanctimonious attitude like they know what I should be doing. I know what I want and it isn’t a baby!”

She strode out the front door slamming it with a finality that chilled Becky to her bones.

“Ramona, Wait! Don’t do it. I can help.”

Storied Past – 5

“Ramona! What are you doing here?” her father repeated, this time more irritated. “Where have you been? I’ve looked all over for you. I haven’t seen you for two days and I’ve been worried. I called the police this morning after looking for you all last night. Where did you go?”

“I . . . I just had to leave for a while. I needed some space to . . . “

“Well, you coulda’ said something.” He interrupted. “You had me scared. You need to come home right now.” He seemed to be gaining speed, anger and volume all at once.

“Well, I think I am, no I know I’m OK and I will come home soon. I just need some space; to think and figure things out.”

“What’s to figure? You are pregnant, in trouble and in sin. You need to get saved,” he spat out. You’re lucky I haven’t thrown you out. I’m still your father and I say you need to come home.”

“No sir,” she countered. “I am staying with a friend and I will be just fine.”

Becky had observed the interaction from a few aisles away and felt like it had escalated more than necessary. She stepped up to the cash register. “Could you call 911 please? I hope everything will be OK but just in case.”

“Sure,” the cashier said.

As she returned to her previous position a safe distance away she saw Ramona’s father reach out and grab her arm. “I said, you need to come home, right now.” Ramona pulled back so fast she knocked over a display of windshield wiper fluid. A couple of bottles split open spreading bluish liquid over the surrounding area.

“Dad, I said I am just fine. I will be home soon. Now could you just leave me alone for a while? Please don’t cause a scene.”

“Well, I guess you already caused a scene, didn’t you, when you went out, got drunk and got all knocked up from some guy you didn’t even know. You’ve probably been sleeping around, too. You’re a whore and damned for Hell.”

Ramona started. She had never heard her father talk like that. But then the impact of what he had said infuriated her. “I was not sleeping around! I have been your perfect little girl all my life trying to please you and the church and now you call me that? I hate you, I hate you!”

Just then the squawk of a police radio coming in the front door demanded everyone’s attention.

“Hey, Hey,” the officer called out. “Let’s calm down and tell me what’s going on.”

“Nothing, officer,” Ramona’s father replied. “I was just leaving. I’ll see you later little Miss sleep-around. Don’t think this is over.”

“Now wait a minute, mister,” the officer known as Riley demanded. “You are not leaving that soon. I want to talk to you first. Here, step outside for a minute. And you stay here in the store, young lady. I want to talk to you, too.”

Ramona looked over at Becky, her heart in her throat from fear. Where did that talk-back spunk come from? She never talked to her father that way before. She guessed she would be in trouble with him for weeks because of it. If Mom were still alive she would be disappointed but she knew Mom would be at least understanding and loving through all this.

Come to think of it, it started to make some sense. Since Mom died her father seemed to become more harsh and demanding. He went to church more like he was off to war or something. When they came home he was more rigid and mechanical around the house. “Everything has a place and there is a place for everything,” he kept saying, as if he were getting OCD or something. Structure, organization and perfect behavior were the most important values. No time for fun anymore.

Becky had walked over by this time and touched her elbow. “I’m so sorry, Ramona. Are you going to be OK? We can go. I still have a few more days until Saturday to find a scarf.”

“Probably should go. I feel weak in the knees. But the cop wants to talk to me first.”

After a short conversation with Officer Riley they headed back to Becky’s apartment. It was still cold out and Ramona clutched her coat closer. She did need to go home and get some clothes to wear. She really hadn’t planned on being gone long when she left yesterday. Now, with her father’s behavior, it made things more complicated. Should she just go on back home or stay with Becky a couple more days?

Turning to Becky she said, “If it’s OK with you Becky, I think I may need to stay with you a little longer but I need to get a change of clothes. Could you go with me? I’m not sure how my father will act when I get there.”

“Of course, Ramona. And yes, you may hang out with me until you get things straightened out with your dad.”

They caught a bus for the ride over to Ramona’s neighborhood. These colder days would eventually give way to the warm spring season but winter seemed to refuse to let go of its grip. Gray, cloudy skies and the accompanying rain squalls were the norm now and this afternoon was no exception. They seemed to overshadow Ramona and eerily prophesy that dark forces were in control of her destiny. The awful dream from last night stole back into her memory in an effort to confirm a hopeless feeling that had nagged her subconscious recently. Why had all this happened to her? What good could possibly await in her future now? What a mess this was.

The bus stopped at East Granite Street where she and Becky got off. Walking two blocks up brought them to a crème colored bungalow with chocolate brown trim where Ramona’s family lived; that is to say, where she and her father lived. Since mom died it hadn’t seemed much like a home. Oh, the place was clean and decently appointed, as it had always been but the warmth of her mother’s graceful spirit was missing, replaced by the drab clamminess of legalistic rule minding imposed by her father.

She turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open. She invited Becky to go in first. Suddenly a strange feeling came over her when she crossed the threshold. What was it? Walking through the living room into the kitchen she nearly tripped over her father’s shoe. Then a horrified scream vaulted past her brain and out of her mouth.