I stepped out of my quarters, the familiar weight of the place pressing down on me. The scope of my assignment here was being expanded dramatically alongside the director’s growing regret of having me here. He was giving me free room and board in exchange for my expertise in criminal investigations; so far my service had been tested by a single case of stolen identity when one of our older guests had mistakenly ordered meal service using another’s account number. My pager was ringing more frequently and I was becoming more of a problem solver and less of an investigator. To be honest, I didn’t mind the extra work. I couldn’t very well sit in my quarters for the rest of eternity waiting for one of us to become a murder victim. Even if that did happen, the pool of potential suspects would already be artificially limited to the 144 souls who lived down here in the Nest. It gave me a chance to meet everyone here, as well as find out how many doors my neat little swipe card would really open in this place. I had a feeling it wouldn’t open them all.
Her love is a river
constant and strong.
It shows me the way
pushes me along.
Her love is the sun
that we circle around;
It keeps us on course
gives us warmth unbound.
Her love is a lesson
of giving and care.
Try as I may
I might never be there.
To Charlotte you are Anna.
To Ellie you’re Mama.
To me you’re my soulmate, my inspiration, my best friend,
my love and my wife.
I wrapped up my store about my scooter-driving co-worker named Libby and finished off another beer. Owen had laughed at all the right spots, so I knew my political satire was gaining ground among my peers. I tossed the empty bottle off the side of the building. It was the side that faces the alley – so I knew if it hit anyone, it would only be some sorry streetperson – and offered Owen a cigarette. He didn’t smoke often, but drinking on the roof was as good a reason as any, and he took one and searched his pockets for a light.
I artfully produced my gold Zippo and zipped up a little flame for him. I must have gotten a little too close as a breeze whipped across the roofline and pushed the flame into his face. He shuttered a little and took a step back. Owen lost his footing on what must have been a crack in the asphalt and went tumbling backwards. I watched in stunned amazement as his foot clipped the low edge and his body disappeared over the side.
I dropped my lighter and rushed towards him. I looked over the side and saw Owen’ body on the sidewalk six stories below. A large pool of dark blood was rapidly flowing out from a great hole in the back of his head.
Owen’s fall had been an accident. But as I tried to make sense of his life before he died, I began to wonder whether he had wanted to die.
She gazes up at the red machine towering over her. Her mouth agape. Eyes unblinking. Ponytail hanging over her shoulders. Between trembling fingers she grips her quarter, careful not to let it slip. She holds it tightly to her chest. She watches the clear globe sitting atop the red machine. It is filled with smaller but to her still enormous globes of pink and blue and green and yellow and red. For only a moment she lowers her eyes to find that mysterious contraption she knows she must surrender her quarter to. Slowly she raises the quarter to the opening above the big silver dial and drops it into the slot. It fits perfectly.
Her eyes dart back up to the clear globe full of those colorful globes. She grips the dial and turns. She is hesitant at first, hoping that the pink one will fall, pleading to whatever god she knows, whatever power of will she can summon to find that pink ball of sweetness and beauty and let it fall away from all the others that just won’t do. She turns until she can’t turn any further. She resets her hand and finds a new grip and turns that dial with a renewed fervor and determination, passing through the clicks until there are no more clicks to pass. She clasps her hands together at the waist of her dress. Rattles and clicks echo from inside the machine, the heavy drop of the gumball as it is released from the clear globe and into the belly of the great red machine and navigates the mysterious course of tubes and turns and slides. She can hear the rolling gumball rolling towards her on that last ramp like a great shiny boulder down to the bottom of the machine. It bangs the inside of the metal trapdoor with a delicious weight.
The machine stands silent. She glances quickly up at me with wonder-filled eyes as she steps close to the machine. She cups one hand lightly underneath the trapdoor, lifts the little door with her other hand, and lets the sweetest, most beautiful little globe she has ever seen fall into her hand.
The air is holding the dampness of late summer while the stars shine their clean light through a blue night that is as crisp as an autumn apple. The vultures are roosting high in the oaks and maples at the edges of the forest. Throngs of tourists have thinned as the last pumpkins patches have been picked clean and the leaves have surrendered their vibrant crimsons and solar yellows and settled into the more serene shades of browns and maroons. Geese have been a common sight in their flightpaths southward. Our local deer have begun to take on their thicker, shaggier coat to ward off the biting cold that waits in the coming months. Thanksgiving is just around the corner.
Another signal of winter harkening is the return of the barking spider. Although this tiny and mostly invisible anthropod calls our little town home the year round, his calls will be heard most frequently as the climate cools and we all spend a little more of our time indoors. His distinctive calls will echo in our bathrooms and sneak out from under our sheets at night; they will interrupt an otherwise promising first date, and will seem to follow your children around wherever they go.
Although known to frequent senior center TV rooms and high school locker rooms, the barking spider can also occasionally be heard butting in on Sunday’s sermon from the third or fourth pew from the back, or on line at the grocery store, causing many heads to turn to see if they can nose out the exact location of the pesky intruder.
Like the great grizzly bear, he is a loner, and prefers the comfort of solitude. When taken by surprise, however, he can release his trademark growl – a fiery rip like an industrial-sized zipper being pulled open. Adept at hiding in plain view, the barking spider will sound his triumphant call proudly in the privacy of his own home. And while in public places he will do his best to mute his song like a velvet hand, it often escapes like an iron fist, betraying his hiding place in one regrettable toot.
Consider yourself lucky if you find yourself face to face with the barking spider, because though his shriek might bring to mind a wild boar grunting its way through the wild everglades, most will prefer the fearsome sound to his smaller cousin, the “silent-but-deadly.”
Ridgefield in late October is the thick skin of summer split open to reveal a vibrant and meaty flesh of a dying year. It is a last gasp, a final plea, a showcase of potential that inevitably and incredibly will be dismissed for the pale brittleness of a long winter.
It is a small triumph of a long year. It is an oasis after a journey through a desert. It is a victory won by battles fought through last year’s winter. It is the medal ceremony of spring and summer, full of the satisfied grins of children feeling the warm breath of August on their cheeks. It is a reminder of the short days ahead of us, the bracing first breath of the morning, the snow falling through the light of a streetlamp that cuts through a dark night, the smell of a neighbor’s fireplace.
Ridgefield in late October is the wind catching the burning embers of summer, fanning a flaring blaze of fiery foliage (of fall).
Ridgefield in late October is pumpkins, trick-or-treaters, mothers walking with babies in carriers, thoughts of Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, warm hellos, the thoughtfulness of strangers.