Prologue and Chapter One of the World's First Blogospheric Mystery Novel...
Previously goes to Chapters Five and Six...
Next goes to Chapters Eight and Nine...
And Now for Chapter Seven...
Chapter Seven: Grace
After spending several hours with Samuel, and a half hour with Charlie, the nurse tending Charlie practically ordered Sharon to go home, and get some rest. Secretly rebellious, and planning on doing some work on the list of questions, but also glad for she felt drained past any thing she might ordinarily feel, Sharon assented. The drive home was a blur, and she remembered some screeching tires, but could not recall why.
At the semi-Victorian house, at least on its exterior, Elizabeth Camwood was gone, but she had left a note.
“Dear Sharon, the Alderson’s, up the street, are having a slumber party, and they hope that your girls would be able to attend.”
Nodding to herself, Sharon called Mr. Alderson who was nose-deep in cleaning the house for his upcoming guests while Lucille Alderson went shopping for party supplies. He never came out and said it, but it seemed pretty clear they had made this party for her family as a way to help. So she agreed, planning on taking the girls over after having them visit their brother for an hour in the afternoon.
Then she rummaged in her refrigerator, and found a plate of taco dip made by the Julian’s across the street, and if she had not been so exhausted she might have made it to the chair before collapsing on the floor and weeping for nearly half an hour. Then prosaically she scooped up food to maintain her strength, avoided the wine because her daughters were coming home, although she considered it for later tonight, and took a jug of milk back with her and the bag of chips that had accompanied the dip back to her husband’s sanctum.
How she missed him. Here his presence was almost tangible, and the enclosing walls were like a womb, or hands wrapping around her like the way he had held her after the miscarriage between Sam and Veronica. Dawn, she still called that one, at least to herself.
Wondering why there was so much tragedy in the world, she scarfed down the rest of her taco dip, and feeling a faint twinge of curiosity almost drowned by the heavy tide of her darkness, she opened the blog.
Something new caught her accountant’s eye. Before, she had been listed off to side of the computer screen on a thumbprint-sized insignia for something called the TTC ecosystem as a Nubile Newt, and now she was a Terrible Tadpole. Curious, despite herself, she clicked on the icon to the right of her screen, and a website came up.
Across the top it said in large, orange day-glo colors, “Truth Told Clearly Ecosystem”. And it showed a ranking of pretty much all the blogs, ranging from Day Old Egg to King Frog of the Seven Seas. To her surprise, she found her husband’s blog was about halfway up the list, and more startling still, under her care, it had raised a rank. The next rank up was “Baby Frog”.
Pursing her lip, not sure she liked this, or not, she wavering went back to her blog to find a miniature storm brewing in the preceding post she had laid out. The question was, did she have legal right to act for her husband in the matter of his business, and specifically in giving Morgenstern the right to handle things. A fair number of responses went round and round without conclusiveness, and the whole thing worried her.
Since the rise in divorces the automatic assumption of the wife’s power of attorney had come into question somewhat seemed to be the general idea of the doubters. And these doubters sounded like they were genuinely seeking to be helpful, but all they did was give Sharon a headache.
So she put up an open question on the matter in another brand-new post.
Some laundry work, and folding of clothes, and she came back to find that her post had generated something called ‘trackbacks’, and clicking on these led her to other blogs, some run by her commenters. MomofFive wrote a “Motherly Thoughts” blog on “motherhood, sex with five chaperones around, and a hunt for some really good drugs-once a month” as she put it, and for a moment, Sharon felt like breaking out in laughter until she remembered her current tragedy, but she really felt like she would like this irreverent, but reverent at the same time and about the same thing woman if they were to meet. And VampHunter wrote a blog dealing with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and role-playing games and moaning about not being able to get a date for the prom who was willing to dress in black.
But both talked of her problem with empathy, although VampHunter’s empathy had a lot more swear words in it; it was still obviously heartfelt, and they referenced her legal problem.
And so she went back to her post to find a half-dozen new nicknames on it, including LawSchoolGuy, Raymond Durbin PHD, Professor Wine and Song, and SoCalLawProf. The upshot was that the worry was invalid unless certain specific problems existed, which did not apply to her. It got sufficiently arcane that she had to reread several comments to be certain she fully understood. Relieved, and grateful, she posted her thanks.
Glad to help, ma’am. I’m sorry to hear about your troubles. I’ll check back every day just in case you need something I can help you with. SoCalLawProf.
I don’t think there are any legal issues. The big question right now is what is the cause of this? Sharon.
Yes, the doctor, a good doctor, hasn’t been able to figure out the cause. He’s stuck to treating symptoms. Sharon.
Let me get back to you. Don’t mind if I trackback this do you? That’s how I heard of your problem. From VampHunter’s blog. SoCalLawProf.
Sharon laughed just a little.
No, go ahead, and I’m surprised to see a law prof looking at VampHunter‘s blog? Sharon.
What can I say; I’m a Buffy fanatic. I’m praying for you. SoCalLawProf.
The two girls came home, and she forced herself to let them eat before telling them of the incident with Samuel. But they could already tell from her hovering, and her gray face that something was bothering her.
She began by asking them obsessively if they were well, and had they felt at all ill today. Repeating the question, and her voice rising when Veronica countered by asking her what the matter was brought a satisfactory response. But then she felt terrifically ashamed of herself, for she had been working her way up to slapping the girls as they sat at the table.
Crying, and trying not to, she left the room, and hid in the bathroom, which seemed to sing to her of a late night bath and slit wrists. Thinking she was going mad, Sharon stood up, breathed deeply, and mopped her face with water before opening the door to greet her two concerned daughters who had followed her upstairs.
“I’m, I’m sorry, Veronica, Jenna. Mommy’s a little upset. Your brother got a little sick, and had to go to the hospital.” She hastened to add to the stricken little faces. “He’s fine. He will be fine.”
Then she bent down as they began to weep, and gathered them in her arms, and held them sitting in the doorway of the bathroom as they all wept together. And there she found more strength, for now the abhorrent song of the bathtub seemed an utterly ridiculous thing, and slapping these two little angels was almost impossible to comprehend.
A while later, she got them in the car, and across town in safety, noting that having children in the car radically improved her driving and concentration, and they visited Sam and Daddy.
Daddy was unchanged, and Sam was still being medicated, but it seemed to be taking hold. Despite his troubles, he was brave for them, and made a number of jokes, and demanded she bring Chocolate Oatmeal No-bake Cookies the next day. It was his way of saying “Mommy work will be good for you.” She did not feel like she had any time in the day to spare, and that surprised her for was she not off from work, and yet she felt rushed?
After dropping her daughters off with many protestations of love, a careful warning to the neighbors of telling her if any sign of sickness arose (which worried them a bit, but since the doctor had not seen fit to isolate them, it must be okay, everyone hoped.), and assurances that Mommy was just down the street, and would come running if needed, and she was free to go home to her empty house.
Mrs. Camwood had been by, and left a note saying she had “cleaned a bit, and left a roast in the oven. Timer will ring.” That left her thirty minutes, and so she listlessly turned on the television only to find reruns of her favorite shows, and so she turned it to music, and left the room.
With the house clean, she migrated to her new haven, wondering if she should check on some of the earlier posts of her husband’s. The blog called with a fascination, and she looked it up. A couple posts to explain the day’s events in response to inquiries, and she breathed deep before confessing her wild almost actions this afternoon. She was not sure whether it was healthy confession and hope that sunlight would banish the demons, or it was shameless exhibitionism.
Might want to check out Mark Feeling’s blog at Pastoral Koan’s. It’s in your trackbacks. Simon the Sorcerer.
Sharon pursed her lips, what an odd name. It reminded her of someone.
Why? And why do you call yourself “Simon the Sorcerer”? You’re not actually a magician are you? Sharon.
Pastor Mark’s one of the stars of the blogosphere, and he’s got quite a few insights about things of the heart and the soul. Of course, trackbacks are at the bottom of your post. There are lots of other people on other blogs referring to your story. It’s spreading fast. Just click on them, and you’ll go there. MacDonald Street.
Another poster explained part of the answer, which Sharon already knew, but it helped remind her from her experience with VampHunter’s blog. So many new things to learn and recall; it was enough to make one dizzy. But at the same time it was exciting. Sharon knew that if she weren’t so terrified for Charlie, she would be having the time of her life.
As McD said, and hey dude, surprised to see you over here. I thought you were trying to get your book finished. Sharon, why “Simon”, well lets say like the Biblical Simon the Sorcerer, I had a tendency to try to put a dollar sign on things that weren’t meant to be sold. It is a long story which if you want I can email you, but suffice it to say I never want to do that again, and so I remind myself with my nickname. Besides, my real life first name is Simon. Simon the Sorcerer.
Sharon replied, and watched the two friends badger each other about projects not completed. One was some sort of radio personality, and the other looked to be a Christian advice author. So she took their advice, and visited Pastoral Koan.
A scroll down a previous post on her blog to the bottom, and below the extensive comments, a long list of trackbacks, nearly twenty waited. The list was much longer than just a few hours before, and many seemed spiritual in nature. She sorted past Frothings of a Fundamentalist, and Scribals’s Scrabbles® Scribbles, and smiled at the jokes of them, and the sight of her friend VampHunter’s blog; wondered in passing what Dollars to Doughnuts blog had to say, and settled her mouse’s arrow on Pastoral Koan.
It had a short fragment of the post below the link.
“Sharon Walkins, and her family need our prayers…”
So she clicked and was transported to an Army chaplain’s blog. It mixed heavy doctrinal disputes with prayers for those in need with rooting for a UM sports team (of some sort, Sharon skipped those posts), and issues specific to Army life. She found herself reading more than she expected, while avoiding the post that dealt with her. It embarrassed her to see her name prominently in a post by someone she did not even know. It was like she was a celebrity or something.
Scanning around, she found it fascinating as she learned a half-dozen facts about Army life that she would never have heard elsewhere. To her surprise, he seemed to be quite optimistic about the on-going war against terrorists, or at least more so than the television news she watched each night. And in his comments on the war in Iraq he had nearly eight who claimed to be currently in country, and agreed with him. Some stated even more vehemently than he did that the MSM was deliberately mis-portraying the reality on the ground.
MSM? Sharon thought wondering what kind of peculiar military acronym that was. She knew that men, even her husband had some sort of warped attraction to such things, but it was annoying to her to find herself missing a key part of the story. But then someone spelled it out in a rant, (she could imagine him red in the face as he pounded at the keyboard) about traitors in the media, the mainstream media.
And suddenly it clicked. MSM, mainstream media. The big boys like CBS and NYT, and CNN must be what they were talking about. Happily, she noted the other posters while somewhat agreeing with the ranter preferred to blame laziness and stupidity rather than deliberate malice. It was her opinion as well from accounting. The truth was that most people made mistakes not from deliberate evil, but because they were tired, or frankly just not that bright when it came to money.
It always surprised Sharon when people did such stupidities with their money, but then she had long ago accepted that understanding compound interest and being able to follow detailed instructions was not all that common, as easy as it seemed to her.
She hesitated at the keyboard, and then decided to try to help a little bit.
Perhaps, its because they don’t understand the military. I mean I just read some of your posts, and I never realized, well quite a few things about the military. And its not like I’m uneducated. I have a Master’s degree in Accounting. And the name’s not Sharon Walkins. It’s Walker. Sharon.
And then she turned to read the post on her family. A simple and heartfelt prayer for her family’s health and peace of mind was followed by some well-organized thoughts on why tragedy occurs. She was not sure she agreed with his contention that tragedy was inherent in a finite universe, for all of us are frail and prone to mistakes, and that only in an infinite universe, or one in which we were not human would we be free of such taint. The idea that followed struck even harder that God had to allow human evil with its horrible consequences or else there would be no true freedom. For a long second, she paused wanting to swear and curse at his unfeeling words and stone-cold heart, but then he passed on to mention a tragedy of his own, and how he had spent nearly a year refusing to pray afterwards.
More comments followed, many from people suffering as she did, and many worse. Mates dead of cancer, children slaughtered by drunk drivers, a house fire that consumed one man’s whole family while he went out to get Chinese take-out, and yet many found a way to keep their faith in the goodness of God. More than a few told of their anger, their rage, their need to stay away from bridges because of the certainty that they would jump if given half a chance.
There were a few who cursed the lot of them, calling them fools, and raving at God, daring him to strike them down. Strong arguments were raised against them, but the one that struck her the most was an odd note in the mix of faith and furor.
I am an atheist, but unlike some of my more, frankly obnoxious brethren. We do not generally acknowledge any group of us, for all of us who are alike are individuals or so we say, but I join them for I don’t believe in the Pastor’s deity. I wish I could. But to me, the balance of the evidence is against it. But to my brethren who shout that the Christians and the Jews and all the Wiccans and all the others represented here are duped idiots, I would say. Pax. Let it be. One would think you are like the lady who protests too much. If they need to believe, then let them. I face the abyss, and while it occasions some fear, mostly I’ll just be glad as I die for the fun times and the friends I had while it lasted. So, enjoy the time you have. It’s all you know for sure you have. For those who have lost, my heartfelt sympathies, and yet you have beautiful memories. QuietAtheist.
Sharon still disagreed with him, and wondered how one could live without any faith, let alone her faith in Christ that she firmly believed was the correct one, but she began to see some of what to her was an extremely odd point of view. And he seemed a very nice man. Contrary to say Jerry Wright at the office who let everyone know, quite loudly, just how oppressed and disdainful he felt by “being forced to see” an eighteen-year-old new hire praying before her meal at her desk. The poor girl had wept for nearly an hour in the woman’s rest room before she could come out again to continue her work. She quit the next day to go work across town where she was now a manager.
“And we’re still saddled with Mr. Wright.” Sharon muttered to herself. “First thing, I’m going to do if my ‘apprentice’ George is right, and I’m a shooting star into management is get that creep fired.”
Sharon flipped open her “List of Future Plans” Word file, and began to type the plan down with uncommon agitation, and then with her fingers shaking; she gave up, and began to weep. Trying to hold it together against the litany of the world’s woes had done nothing for her, and so she read the stories again, this time with a heart open to grieve, and she found instead of pain repressed and rage at jerks; she found sympathy and love.
And so she closed her Word file. In passing, she noted that Pastoral Koan had added an addendum acknowledging its mistake in spelling her name. And correcting itself. She still felt uncertain if it was right to do as she planned for Mr. Wright. Sitting there, not sure what to do, she considered an experiment, and went back to her own blog, and outlined in a new post the Mr. Wright scenario as a hypothetical, and with other disguises and lastly the identifying details shaved off. Now what should a person do? Sharon.
And then she staggered off to bed.
End of Chapter Seven.