Third Fragment

Sam saw her park. He veered from the track and changed to a slow jog, angling to meet her at the fence. He knew Cas saw her but he also knew Cas would keep pounding around the track until he was done.

“Did you cut them loose?”

She shrugged. “Their alibis checked out.”

“I figured. They’re idiots. Won’t say they wouldn’t kill but they aren’t smart enough for this one.”

“That’s what he said,” she pointed at the running figure with her chin.

Sam was pacing the fence, cooling down and looked up and over with a grin. “I guess I’m almost as smart as him, then. He still irritating?”

She grinned back, “Mostly. Does that change?”


“How long will he run like that?”

“To zero.”

At her glance, Sam shrugged, “It’s something our old track coach used to say. ‘Run until you hit zero. If you finish second with something left in the tank you’ve lost twice. Always be chasing zero, boys.’ He’s chasing zero.”

She watched Cas run. It looked like he was actually speeding up. “So why aren’t you still running?”

“A – I came to talk to my detective and B I’m not chasing zero. I run because it helps me avoid the consequences of a desk job and I like it. It gives me time to think. I’m not chasing anything around that track.”

“What’s he chasing then?”

“He’s chasing zero.”


“So what happened?”

He looked over at her. She was looking directly at him, almost challenging him.

He sighed, “Nothing happened.” He shrugged. “That was most of it. I got complacent. Not even complacent really. I became sort of frozen in place. And I worked so hard to make things easy for her that I took away all her strength”


His head snapped up. “How would you know?”

“I know it’s never just one person. I’ve never been married but I’ve been in relationships and when they fall apart it’s never completely one persons fault.

“I didn’t say it was all my fault.” He paused and dropped his head. “Ok, maybe all I said were the things I did. It’s easier for me to blame myself than her.”

“So what really happened?”

“What I said. And more. I mean she wasn’t honest. She never told me how she was feeling. She…” He shrugged again. “Doesn’t matter so much. I tried to keep things as perfect as I could and that locked us in place. She fell out of love. Then she finally realized she had to leave.”

“You’re still taking all the blame. You say she was at fault but you don’t believe it. You’re so damned arrogant.”

His head snapped up. “Arrogant?”

“Yep. You’re not the only one that reads people. You think everything is your fault because, partly, you think you’re the only competent one around. Anything that goes wrong must be your fault because no one else is smart enough or good enough or strong enough or whatever enough to have a handle on things the way you do. You’re an arrogant control freak.”

“Yeeaahh…” He stood. “I think we’re done here.”

“Don’t get me wrong. I still like you well enough. And from what I’ve seen a lot of that arrogance is justified. But from what I’ve seen, the people who think they’re the worst are just like the ones who think they’re the best. It makes them special in their own minds. And the ones who feel like they’re carrying the burdens of the world,” she waved her hands around flamboyantly on that last phrase, “tend to do that because somewhere in their minds or hearts or souls is something that thinks they are the only ones who possible could carry all those burdens.”

“I didn’t mean to piss you off,” she said to his retreating back.

“Yes you did,” he said without turning around. “And you did it well. But you might be right too.”

Just as he disappeared into the darkness of the surrounding azaleas he said, “See you tomorrow.”


She smiled.


He lived on a quiet street in a genteel old neighborhood. She knew, as a cop, that most of the residents were older, retired folk.  The chief had mentioned that he’d inherited the house when his dad had passed ten years ago.  The house itself sat back off the street on a large lot.  The land behind his lot was undeveloped, full of trees and undergrowth.   Two large hickory trees, one near enough the house to overshadow part of the porch and the other on the left front corner dominated the front yard.  Two flower beds of azaleas blocked clean sight lines to the house itself. There was a carport, framed in the same square pillars that upheld the long front porch, on the right, with his green Element backed in.  She could tell that the back yard was deep but couldn’t see much of it from the road. The yard and the off-white stucco was well maintained but the house seemed to almost be in retreat, hiding away from view.  She didn’t see him doing much yard or housework himself so she assumed he must hire someone.  She turned to look down the block.  His house was in the middle of the street.  Most of the houses were of a similar style and size.  The neighborhood radiated a sense of age and foundation.  It was solid and established.
“It’s interesting to watch a cop look at things.”
She didn’t spin around but it was a near thing.  He’d appeared in the now open door.  She strongly suspected that he’d waited until she wasn’t looking to do so.  The bastard.
“I’ve noticed that you tend to, I don’t know, see things differently.  Sam does the same thing.  I’ve never seen him do it here but he practically grew up here  so…” He paused.  “You wanna come in?”

She strode across the grass and he turned and went into the house, leaving the door open in invitation.  He was standing across the living room with his back to her, pouring iced tea into glasses.  The room was large, well-lit from the tall, narrow windows on the front and left sides.  Dark, hardwood floors covered the living room and continued into the dining room to the right of the door and the hall opposite the door.  There was a fireplace, unlit of course, in the middle of the far right wall.   Built-in bookcases, filled with books, covered the rest of the wall .  The furniture was Arts and Crafts, which fit the house, staged around the fireplace.  It was obviously well cared for, but there were old scratches and small gouges around the bottoms of the legs. “Dog,” she thought.  The photos placed about were mostly older except for one small frame with him and a pretty brown and brown woman with a crooked smile.  “Amelia,” she thought grimly.

“You’re doing it again, by the way,” he said, holding out a glass of tea.  “I asked Sam about it before.  He wasn’t really aware he was doing anything different.  He couldn’t really tell me what he was doing because he wasn’t doing it consciously.  You automatically noted exits, you looked at all the pictures, you categorized everything very quickly.  Very interesting.  I have a friend who’s a painter and he looks at things kind of like that.  Not the whole “exits, threats, what doesn’t fit” thing but he tends to see more.  I take care of my own lawn, by the way.  I actually like cutting grass and tending the beds.”He grinned as she looked startled.  “When you were looking over the lawn your lip curled up a little.  Kind of dismissive.”She grinned back.  “So you’re not a cop.  Why do you notice things?”“I like to.  Most things interest me.  I like to see how things fit.”You also like to startle people.”“I also like to amaze people with how smart I am.  True.”She sipped the tea which was very cold and very sweet.  “So where is all of your stuff?  Most everything in here looks like it’s been here for a while.  I’m thinking it was your folk’s.  I don’t even see a tv.”

“There actually is a tv.  The panel over the fireplace slides back.  I had that put in.  But you’re right, most of this was here when I moved back.  I have a study slash office slash whatever room.  I keep the serious tv in there.  I don’t like to watch it in here.  Shame I didn’t figure that out until after I had the work done.”

He sat on a leather-covered Morris chair and pointed to another across from it.

“I take it I was right?”




Soft gray blanket seems too heavy a term.


Smokey cotton is closer but lacks the chill

Of a winter fog.




Exhaled ghosts of buried oceans.



That’ll do.


Chilly and

Isolating and



Being in a fog like that,


You almost expect to hear the wailing baying

Of the dreaded Hound that Holmes hunted.


On an evening full of mist phantoms

Each home becomes an individual island,

Radiating dim and distant light

And far away warmth,




But apart.




Anyone there?


Some days the fog lasts all day long.

Long, long, and lonely long.


Next day, the sun will rise

And drive down the spirits of the moors

And connect everything, again,

In crystalline light.


Breathe in the fog

While it lasts.

Soak in the chill

(Just a little bit)

And feel alone

(For a little while).

The sun will shine the brighter for it.

The Road Less Traveled – Redux

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I—I took the one less traveled by.  It was fine for a while.  Then the underbrush started to close in.  After a while there was so much underbrush that I began to think maybe I wasn’t on a road anymore.  To tell the truth it didn’t even seem to be a path.  Briars were pulling and poking at me.  Whippy little branches were slapping my face.  Bugs started to bite and I think I must have walked into every spider web in that damned yellow wood.  Finally the brush was so thick I couldn’t see more than a foot ahead.  That’s when I fell off of the cliff.  Now I sit at the bottom of a shallow gorge.  I’m bruised and my ankle is twisted.  On the plus side there is less underbrush obscuring everything.  I can see where I want to be.  It’s in sight.  Unfortunately, to get there, it looks like I’ll have to swim at least two rivers and scale a forty-foot rock wall.  No choice at this point really though.  I wonder what the other road would have been like.  This one has certainly made all the difference.

Gray Day

I like a sunny day as much as the next guy (assuming the next guy likes a sunny day exactly as much as me, which, unless cloning technology is further along than I think, is improbable).  Yesterday was not a sunny day.  It was gray.  The sky was granite with clouds the color of iron.  Every parking lot I saw was wet with intermittent rain and shimmered in spots from the oil all parking lots collect.  It’s winter, so the trees are all bare branches now, and almost all of the grass is the color of old rust.  It sounds like a depressing sort of day.  I loved it.  The whole day was restful, like reading in bed with a couple of lamps for light.  The cloud covered sky meant I never ended up squinting into the sun.  Every time it rained it made everything smell, briefly, freshly washed; and look polished.  Parking lots full of oil slick rainbows isn’t something you see on a sunny day either. Bare limbs make clean lines, uncluttered and simple.  A beautiful day can sweep me up, fill me with energy, make me feel alive; but the gray day yesterday just allowed a moment to rest.

I don’t really want to wax too philosophical.  I’m not really trying to make any meaningful point.  I just wanted to describe my gray day.


Whirling always seems forever.

In the storm,

Tossed about,

Pelted and soaked and battered,

It always feels like the storm will never end.

No matter how many storms I ride to the end,

No matter how long I wait,

Or fight,

The storm always reaches past the limit of my patience

So that

This storm,

This one,

The one of the present,

This is the one,

The unending storm.


It ends.

I recover.

I rebuild.

I rest.

When I fight the storm

I end up stronger than I was.

When I surrender to the wind and rain

I end up damaged.

If I’m stronger I push ahead

And move forward.

If I’m damaged I try frantically to just get back to zero

Before the next one.

There is always another storm,

But, there is always an ending as well.

Whirling never lasts forever.