For those who are following "Vendetta," I'm still working on it, but I don't want to post any more until I'm ready to post the complete story -- so when you see it again, you'll know that you won't have to wait any more. Thanks for your patience! In the meantime, a little something that was inspired by a comment Cheryl Heuton made about Charlie . . .

Q is for Quiet
By BeckyS
July 2006

Too much noise. In my head, I mean. There's so much stuff rattling around inside my brain sometimes that adding anything from outside is too much. It's like shining a light on a person with a hangover. Like ringing a bell next to a person with a migraine. It's too much. It hurts.

Don says I'm overreacting. He says I should just tune it out, like always. Dad just smiles and tries to be quiet, but he lives in the house, too. And he worries if I don't eat or sleep on his schedule.

I lean my elbows on the desk in my office, try to rub the headache from my temples. I can feel the tide rising. I have to get out. I have to get somewhere else. I have to get away from my students, my classes, departmental meetings, FBI cases, my family, my friends, my colleagues . . . I have to get away before I destroy every relationship I care about.

They try to be tolerant. "Charlie's just . . . that way," they say. But I hear the shades of hurt in their voices.

A brochure appears on the desk in front of me.

"Charles," a soft voice says. "A cabin in the woods. DSL internet. Meals provided and picked up three times a day. Hiking trails. A stocked refrigerator. A mountain stream and lake nearby."

I look up and see my good friend and mentor, Larry Fleinhardt. How did he know?

"I've made a reservation for you starting tonight, for a week, Amita and I will cover your classes, Don's agreed not to call you on any cases, and your father packed a bag for you."

I feel the tension begin to bleed from my shoulders. I can almost see the shadows of my family and friends behind him. I blink hard, chasing back a sudden wetness.

"Go," he says. "Work it out of your system, out of your head. I'll call you in five days to see if you need more time."

"Larry—" I choke out.

"People think being a genius must be a wonderful gift," he muses.

Sometimes it is, I think to myself, but others . . .

"But it doesn't come without a price, does it?"

"No," I answer. "And too many times it's you and Amita and Dad and Don who pay."

He kneads my shoulder. "But you pay most of all. Go. No guilt, my friend. Just go and work in peace, quiet and solitude."

I went, I worked, I ate when I needed to, walked when I had a bad spot to figure out, and slept whenever I fell into bed. I had insight after insight flooding my brain, and the numbers flowed like the cascades of water over the rocks in the river.

And when I came back seven days later, it was to a huge barbecue in the backyard and all my friends greeting me with shouts of welcome. But it didn't bother me because, as noisy as it was outside, my mind was finally quiet.