The ties that bind the family,
No matter what time it is.
Jane Calhoun was born in February 1950, and was spoilt by her parents and one set of grandparents. Her claim to fame lasted fifteen months until Allie became pregnant again. Jane was two when Jeffery was born and wanted to help Allie raise Jeff.
When Jane was four and Jeff two, Jane and Jeff had developed the habit of Jane speaking for Jeff. Jane instinctively knew what Jeff wanted, would answer for Jeff, and made sure he was looked after. This constant habit infuriated Allie as she could see Jeff's development was far slower than Jane's. It got to the point that Allie would take Jeff for walks so she could chat to her son without Jane bouncing about and interrupting. Jeff's speech was slow and deliberate because he didn't have much to say.
When their third child, David, was born the family dynamics changed again. Jane and Jeff wanted nothing to do with David as they were a pair, older, and not interested in their younger sibling. They were really too young to assist Allie during the early years so were free to run rampant through the house and grounds.
Allie would take David to her small studio that Noah had made out of the old separate kitchen building so she could paint, relax and look after her young son. Of all the requests built in to the studio the key two were a window air conditioner and large windows. While refurbishing the big house, Noah kept the old water cistern, windmill pump and elevated water tank but did install modern pluming with up-to-date bathrooms. The kitchen went from the separate wood burning stove building to inside the house with all the latest gadgets. The electrical system replaced the candles and acetylene system to provide modern power to the lights and fans. He did not include any central air conditioning.
Electrical power was provided by the local utility and was ran five miles from the nearest overhead line. Because tree trimming was not high on the utilities priorities, there were quite a few power outages. At least the family had butane for cooking and the refrigerator.
Central air conditioning came later once Allie was a well known painter with too many visitors and parties not offer the creature comport of air conditioning in summer. When the air conditioning was added, Noah installed back-up generators, also butane powered, to make sure guests were not disappointed.
When Noah was busy, while Allie and David were in the studio, Jane and Jeff would take off doing something about the house, the grounds or off exploring. When they went exploring they always took a lunch, water and their fishing poles with worms. Other times Noah would take Jane and Jeff out in the canoe fishing. Noah always made sure he'd pack his guitar to sing when the fishing weren't biting.
These early years saw Noah and Allie spending a lot of time on the front porch rocking their children while talking in the usual coded language of parents. Spelling words out was fine until Jane turned five. By then her grasp on the English language was good enough for her to start guessing what was being spelled out.
Noah and Allie were at a disadvantage when it came to raising children. They were both only children. Which meant they had no experience being with younger children when growing up. Slowly Allie relied more and more on the local painting fraternity. The group fluctuated in number with the season, as people came and went, with people having babies, and with interest. Fortunately for Allie the local painters were not intimidated by her skill as they all knew Noah, but, for very good reasons, never offered any stories of him growing up.
It took about two years before Allie's paintings started to gain a good reputation, then something to be desired and finally a work of art. The money Allie made from her paintings soon outstripped Noah's earning capacity. Noah never resented the skills Allie had, in fact he rejoiced that her paintings were getting the recognition that he felt they deserved.
Noah felt there was noting better than sitting in Allie's studio feeding the various babies while Allie painted. Noah could see the subtle changes each child brought to Allie's works. Each child somehow inspired something new in Allie's paintings. Noah could see the changes but kept it to himself. Sort of let Allie change as she felt fit: unless she asked. If Allie asked Noah's opinion he would give it, at first cautiously then he felt comfortable giving it. Discussing paintings gave another dimension to the marriage. There was nothing better between the two of them than sitting outside on the rocking chair with an art book from the library. They would turn the pages and discuss the paintings from different angles. Sometimes they would play a speed game called 'find the object'. This was when a page was turned and they had to yell out what was the focus of the painting. First one wins. They would go through a coffee table size painting book in ten minutes flat playing this game. By the end of the book they had forgotten who had won, while the game ended in laughter.
The family changed when Jane turned six and was off to first grade. Without the constant companionship of Jane both Jeff and David had lost their leader. It was Jane that organized the boys, looked after them and made sure they were safe on their expeditions out into the wide world about their home. It took a while for Jeff to step up and take over the roll of being the lead. It was not easy at first as the boys tried to second guess what Jane would do. Eventually Jeff stopped wondering and just did it.
When Jane was Seven, Jeff was five, and David was three, along came Katherine. Jane quickly dumped the boys and was taken by having a sister in the family. With Jane and now Kate, Allie felt a new strength of sisterhood in the fledgling family. The change in the family reflected in Allie's paintings.
When Jane moved from elementary to middle school came the end of Allie eating lunch with her first daughter. As Jane put it, it was not cool for parents to be seen at the middle school lunch table. As sad as it was, there were more children in elementary school to keep Allie in school lunches.
When the Beatles hit the USA in February 1964, Jane fell in love with Paul and his eyes. She did everything possible to be at Atlanta on August 18, 1965 for the Beatles concert. There was nothing she could do as her parents were on the road doing a series of painting exhibitions. At least her mother had bought her the With the Beatles LP.
On August 19, 1965, Jane started a local chapter of the Beatles Fan Club. Noah could not believe one of his children had fallen for that foreign rock and roll music over good old fashioned country and western music. Then Noah could not understand why people were joining the fan club is such numbers. Beatlemania had struck New Bern.
On September 1, 1965, while sitting on the porch, Noah had his guitar in hand, strumming away. He was thinking about that simple song, Please, Please Me and starting strumming the music. It was a simple tune of a few bars repeated with some minor riffs. He laughed at how simple rock-n-roll music was. That evening he surprised the family by playing a couple Beatle songs. Jane was amazed her father could play so well and asked if she could join in. The duo of Jane and Noah started that night. There were many nights Jane and her father would sit on the porch singing Jane's favorite Beatle songs.
Of course, the monthly Beatle Fan Club meetings were held out at the Calhoun place where Jane shared all the latest gossip about the Beatles. It was during one of these monthly meetings that Jane heard of the August 23, 1962, marriage of John to Cynthia. Even though she was not in love with John, she felt a strong betrayal: how could he do it?
Jane started high school in the fall of 1964. On her second day she ran into a Vietnam War demonstration. It was not that Jane lived a sheltered life; it was because her life was full of different priorities. Her first year of high school was difficult as she adjusted to the world and its vagaries.
Jane entered high school taking all advanced classes. She was building on her success in middle school. Things started to look out of place when in the spring semester she dropped out of advanced to regular English. The warning flag was raised but her parents missed it. Too many children and too many things going on.
Juan Lopez was a good kid in high school, trying to get good grades and work a job in the evenings to support his parents. It was hard work and he was making it… just. The Lopez family lived one hiccup away from poverty. What Juan brought in supplemented his father's meager under-the-counter wages. Jane worked along side Juan at the local hamburger joint. She wanted her own money rather than rely on her parents hand out: better known as pocket money.
Pocket money was doled out once a week after consulting the chore chart. If all the chores were signed off and dated then money changed hands. Jane was never happy with this situation since chores were handed out based on sex and ability. Since she was a female it meant Jeff had all the outside chores while Kate and Jane shared the inside chores that were geared toward females. She felt that mowing should be shared amongst all the kids especially since they had a John Deere riding lawnmower. No matter which way she tried to tackle her father, he kept saying no to her. Outdoor chores were for men and inside for women. Allie was okay with that since after they got married she worked along side Noah on the fences about the place. During the summer it is hot and humid in New Bern. Working outside means you will sweat and it is easy to loose three to five pounds in one afternoon. Allie learnt that lesson one day when she felt lightheaded and had to put her feet up. She had not been drinking enough water.
The other outdoor chore that was male dominated was cutting, hauling and splitting wood. Noah was careful to look after the trees that were on his property. He would check and cut down any tree that was past its prime or needing to come down. Originally all the work was done by Noah and one of the blacks in the area. When Jeff turned thirteen he went along to assist. There is something spectacular in standing about a tree checking the best direction to drop it, trim the trunk, and get the wood to the house. Noah would discuss and sketch out the plan so that his son understood what was about happen. Once ready, and safety equipment on, Noah cut the notch in the tree to give direction to the fall. Once satisfied Noah went to the other side of the tree and started to cut. Jeff stood back a safe distance and watched. Once, and only once, Jane snuck out of the house to watch Noah and Jeff cut a tree down. She found a good spot, made sure there were no bugs about and sat on the ground. She watched her big father and small brother walking and pointing about the tree that was about to be cut down. When it was time to start up the chainsaws Jane was not ready for the noise: it was overpowering in the quiet forest. Then Noah started to increase the rev's and cut into the wood. Pieces of wood flew every which way as the chainsaw cut deeper and deeper into the tree. Jane forgot her sandwich lying there and stared as the chainsaw chewed into the wood. It was an awesome sight. Then Noah hit the point where the tree started to fall under its own weight. Noah killed the motor and quickly walked back to Jeff and let gravity do the rest. The cracking of the wood sounded like gun shots in the forest. Slowly at first, then picking up speed, the tree cracked and splintered all the way down to the ground where it crashed, bounced twice and stopped. All Jane could think of was, "Awesome!"
Noah fired up the chain saw and started to cut off the limbs while Jeff pulled the cut limbs away from the trunk. Now Jane could understand why there are some chores best left to the men. That looked like and was hard work!
One day Juan and Jane were busy in the library studying American history. They were having a problem with the founding documents. It was a discussion upon what the founding documents were based. They were reading about the British document, Declaration of Rights of 1688-89. Then in sauntered Danny Davis with his two stooges, Justin and Pete Jenkins, twins. They had nothing better to do than wander about the library checking out the girls. None of the girls were interested in the numskull trio and avoided looking at them. Juan could see Jane getting tight as she heard the twins flipping books and poking girls in the side. To the twins, nothing was better than being a bother, especially if the girl was good looking.
"Hay, look," said Pete, "there's double J." That brought Danny round the corner with a big smile on his face. Danny liked the cute looking Jane, and didn't like the Mexican, Juan. The problem was Juan was from Cuba.
"Hi good looking," said Danny in a quiet silky voice as he pulled out a chair, sat down next to Jane and put his arm over her shoulder. Jane hated the attention of Danny as he had the reputation of "Roman fingers" and "Russian hands" with or without his sidekicks looking on.
"Get lost Danny," Juan said in a certain voice.
"And who is going to get me lost then? You?"
"Yeh, me." Was his fired up reply.
"Well Jane, is your Mexican white enough to stand up for you?" Danny teased as he kept fingering her hair while looking at Juan.
Juan did not like where this was going but was not going to back down for some greasy boy. With steel in his voice Juan said, "Just go Danny. And take those two with you."
"They're doing nothing, just looking for a good book," Then he added, "Ones with color pictures." The Jenkins twins grinned together.
Danny was trying to get into a good position to get a peak. Jane knew what Danny was doing and pushed his arm away. Danny quickly avoided the move and was back in position angling for an illicit view.
Quickly Juan stood up. The noise of his chair being moved so fast made some heads turn and stare. Everyone knew Danny and Juan were heading for a fight; it was just a matter of time and place. Right now, the library was looking like the time and place. The Jenkins twins split up, one covering each end of the isle. Danny stood up carefully and said, "Any time you want, Mexican boy."
Juan kicked a chair out of the way and lifted the frightened Jane out of her chair and over to the book case to be out of the way.
Miss. Hanney was overweight before the word was ever invented. She loved donuts and sticky buns for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If there was a snack time, it was best to have something sweet for Miss. Hanney. Fat or not, Miss. Hanney could move very fast over short distances. She just happened to be in the book sorting room when in came a book stacker with wide eyes pointing through the door and saying in a choked voice, "Fight." Miss Hanney flew through the door and easily spotted the Jenkins twins. Where ever they were, Danny was certain to be. She zipped past one of the Jenkins twins whacking him about the head to get him out of the way. There before her was the tense scene. Not waiting for things to start, Miss, Hanney got right in front of Danny and asked, "What are you doing in this library?"
"Reading a book," was the bright answer. It was also the wrong answer. Everyone knew Danny was in school because his parents sent him, not because he wanted to be there.
Miss Hanney grabbed Danny by the ear and pulled him down to her level and said in a sharp voice, "I'll be seeing you in detention. Now, get out of here." With that she gave him a solid whack on the back of the head then pushed him away. Turning to Jane she gently asked, "You okay sweetie?" It was then that Jane burst into tears. The shock of what was about to happen had terrified Jane. She sat down and cried for the longest time.
As usual, what happened came to Noah's ears thought informal lines that, in this case, ran through the principal.
Danny's father, Jed Davis, was a well to do banker in town and his mother, Annabel Davis, was the city's accountant. Jed Davis was a direct descendents of Jefferson Finis Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.
When Jeff turned fifteen Jeff and his best friend Jason started to sneak off going gator hunting in the local bayou's. Jason's father, grandfather and great-grandfather were gator hunters and it was expected that Jason would carry on the family tradition: after careful training by his father. Jason's family had at least three working boats and several in some form or being trashed or repaired. They were the only family for miles around that used a hat stand to hold their assortment of rifles and shotguns. Strangely, they never had any hand guns.
Jeff and Jason usually headed out early on Saturdays as that is when parents slept in. Jeff would tell his parents he was off to see Jason. Jason would tell his parents they were going out fishing as that is what Noah did. What they loaded into the boat was definitely not fish catching size tackle and there was no need for a rifle if all they were chasing was fish. They loaded up early and off to check their bated lines.
The boat used was the only one Jeff's parents would allow him to take out as it was old, slow and very stable. With the engine put-putting away, they would head out into the early hours.
As they were boys, the usual chat was on girls. Since they were still young, the boy's pickings were very slim and usually consisted of a three minute dance at a school sponsored event.
Between the two of them, Jason did the hauling while Jeff did the shooting. Jason made sure the gator was small enough. Once and only once Jason started on a gator about his own size. The gator came up fast snapping away and both boys fell back in the boat as fast as they could. Both had eyes the size of dinner plates and quickly called it a day. From that day onward Jason was careful and Jeff never missed: except once when he put a hole in the boat… but that is another story.
Jeff always thought he was putting one over on his father and always had a big grin on his face when Noah asked him what he and Jason did all day long. Jeff always said the same thing, "Out fishing: but we didn't catch a thing." To which Noah slowly nodded. Same bullshit Noah pulled on his father umpteen years earlier. Noah and Jason's father went back an awful long way, then to boot camp and the horrors of WWII. The two men had a clear picture what their boys were up to and did nothing to stop it. Just another part in the circle of life.
It was a quiet evening when Noah and Jason's father took a walk in the evening mist outside Noah's home. They were about to fry a big fish. The only question was how to fry the fish without getting any fingers burnt.
Fay Cheney walked nonchalantly into the First Bank of New Bern Monday morning at ten minutes to ten. Everyone in the bank knew she had arrived by the noise of her stiletto heals on the marble floor. No one from New Bern wore stiletto heals to the bank. Her appointment with Jed Davis was for ten o'clock. After visiting with Jed Davis' secretary Fay took a seat. She had chosen her clothes with the precisions of a Swiss watch: a drop dead sweet humming Swiss watch. Sitting in the chair she pulled out her compact, powered her nose and then reapplied ruby red lipstick which matched her dress. Everyone in the bank was looking at Mrs. Cheney because they had never seen anyone in the bank remotely like Mrs. Cheney.
"May I offer you a cigarette?" Stuttered Jed Davis after he invited Mrs. Cheney into his office. Her carefully selected French perfume wafted over the banker and he forgot to wait for reply and left the cigarette case open on his desk.
"I am looking for a capable banker," was the silky question. Mrs. Cheney left the question hanging in the office as she slowly reached for a cigarette. The banker watched her hand extend, delicately select a cigarette, picked up the lighter from the desk and lit the cigarette. With careful precession she inhaled, threw her head back and blew out a perfect circle. By that one simple act the banker was totally beguiled.
"And how can I help you?" Jed said with a wolfish smile.
"Oh, you can help me very much." It was not the words that Mrs. Cheney said, but the look she gave when she spoke. Suddenly Jed felt hot, very hot.
"In what way?" the banker said as he watched another circle rise from Mrs. Cheney's sculpted lips.
"I'm moving into the area and want to move my money with me. Oh, and I will need a safety deposit box: a good one." Leaning forward so the banker could get a close look at something he does not see too often. Time seemed to dissolve as he gazed. She snapped back into her chair and the banker blinked. "Can you do it?" was her simple question.
The poor banker was thinking one way and his mouth was going another. "I… Yes… Of course we can. What were you thinking of?"
"Oh, I was thinking of something big…" The banker was getting hot again. "Say twenty-five thousand dollars."
The number brought the banker back to reality. That was serious money. "Did you say Twenty-five thousand…" The banker's mind was going into high speed. This was a good deposit into his bank. Money he could use and invest into the golf course he was heavily promoting.
"I could have the money here by Wednesday."
"That would be mighty fine." The banker was thinking, get the money on Wednesday and on Thursday deposit it with the golf course investors at their monthly meeting. Joining the old money of New Bern was one of Jed's unwritten ambitions.
Fay left it late, very late. It was four-fifty when she walked in the bank. Her stiletto heals echoed throughout the cavern as she walked over to the bank manager's secretary, the very capable Mrs. Bitterman. Mrs. Bitterman pressed the intercom button and the door quickly opened as Jed Davis was waiting.
"Welcome," was the anxious question. Jed relaxed when he saw the ample handbag. He escorted Fay into his office and carefully closed the door behind them. "Take a seat." Jed said as he pulled out the chair. He felt almost euphoric.
"I hope you don't mind…" Fay started to say as she looked away into the distance. Jed suddenly became deflated. He could see his dream vanish in a puff. Fay pulled out her compact and powered her nose as she studied her face and touched her hair to make sure it was in place. With a hard snap the compact slid back into the handbag as she sat down. "I forgot. It was thirty thousand." Carefully Fay pulled out bundles of used hundred dollar bills. "Please make sure the total is correct. And I would like a receipt."
Jed's face became flush with joy and gratitude. His boat had just come in. He quickly started counting the money himself rather than have someone else come in and break this magical moment. Fay sat back blowing perfect circles up at the ceiling as she crossed her legs first one way and then the other. The noise of her silk stockings rubbing each other bothered Jed in a way that was new to him. He kept loosing concentration on the count. In the end he accepted that each bundle was ten thousand dollars.
"Are you satisfied?" Fay patiently asked.
The soft question startled Jed and he lost count again. He stared at Fay and noticed her thick eyelashes. Something his wife never did. He liked dark eyelashes. "Ah… I…" He got lost looking at Fay and her innocent face. He let out a big sigh and said, "I'm satisfied." It was a lie. The receipt was easily written. Fay studied it and noticed the hand was a bit unsteady, but everything was in order and on time.
Fay stood up, leaned carefully over the desk and put out her hand. Jed took her hand while not looking at her face. His gaze was elsewhere.
The sharp staccato noise of the heals grew dimmer as they walked out the office, across the foyer, and out of the bank.
Jed sat at his desk for a full ten minutes thinking and remembering. He had never seen anyone like Mrs. Cheney before. He knew she would be heading back to the best hotel in town and to the suite on the third floor. He had done his homework on Mrs. Cheney. He had been busy finding out what he could, which really was not much. She was from New York and had been house hunting in his neighborhood. Actually she was interested in the house that backed onto his property.
Two hours later Jed had joined the golf course developers and deposited twenty thousand with them: he was in.
Two days later Fay was back depositing a further ten thousand and a week later bought the house behind the Davis'. She received her loan from First Bank of New Bern. Then she was back for an extension to the loan so she could do some slight modifications and furnish the house. Jed could never resist thick, black eyelashes.
It was a week before Mrs. Cheney was going to throw a house warming party that two men from Washington made an appointment with the manager of the First Bank of New Bern. They were from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing section of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. They wanted to talk about forged ten and one hundred dollar bills that seemed to originate from the New Bern area.
After closing the bank Jed drove over to Mrs. Cheney's house. He was rattled. The conversation with the men from Washington had not gone well. They did everything but accuse him of having a printing press in the basement. And they promised to come back for a follow-up "chat". Of all the people that used his bank, Mrs. Cheney was the only one to have deposited hundred dollar bills within the past while.
Mrs. Cheney answered the door. She had on little makeup; hair was pulled back and was wearing a loose fitting wrap… a very loose fitting wrap and no shoes. In her hand was a martini. Her face lit up when she saw Mr. Davis standing there. "Why, Mr. Davis. What a nice surprise to see you. Come on in and have a look and what I've done to the old house." Without waiting Mrs. Cheney spun around and waltzed back into the house leaving Mr. Davis to close the door.
The neighbor directly across the road from Mrs. Cheney had duly logged the arrival of the bank manager, what Mrs. Cheney was or was not wearing and how she greeted the bank manager. Gossip was the currency of the ladies in the area and the female with the best story was fawned as queen. And the news of Mr. Davis entering into the newly acclaimed den of iniquity was classified as prize news. The minute the door closed fingers were flitting about the telephone dial. Faster than the speed of light, the story flashed about and became more embellished with every fervent retell.
"Take a seat," Fay said in an airily way as she waved to the seats in the lounge.
"Thank you," muttered Mr. Davis in a worried way. He quickly took off his hat and sat quickly on the edge of the couch. He kept his eyes down and rolled the hat round and round. He was worried.
Fay spread out on the chair opposite. Her eyes narrowed as she read her man. She had been expecting this and was ready. Rather than wait, she took the advantage. "Would you like a drink?"
"Ah, no thank you."
"Then what can I do for you?"
"Just stopping by for a chat."
"About what?" Fay asked. Her innocent question wandered about the room waiting for a reply. Mr. Davis sat there spinning his hat round and round. He had no idea where to start, what to ask or what to think. After about ten minutes of this impasse Mr. Davis stood up and walked out of the house without of a word. The phone over the road started working again after consulting the watch on a withered wrist.
Once Mr. Davis left, Fay picked up and phone and called a number in New York. The call was quiet, short and very business like.
Rather than sit about Fay got changed and drove down town to continue her preparations for the house worming party. She worked her way down the list of people she had to see. It was going to be a fine party with only the best items that money could buy from local merchants. Since she was new in town, the merchants did not know her, except by reputation from their wives. The various merchants were very curious about Mrs. Cheney: and they were not disappointed. Mrs. Cheney was very willing to stop and visit with each merchant to make sure she could get the best produce. And she used cash, usually ten and hundred dollar bills.
His name was Teah Esah, pronounced T..E., after his Latvian grandfather who jumped ship in London. In 1939, he was a skinny fifteen year old working in a haberdashery shop on the Old Kent Road, London. He got his position because he could sew as good as any woman. He learnt his profession from his mother who wrapped his knuckles until he got it right. In July 1939 T.E. walked into an army recruiting office and signed up as a sixteen year old private in the British Expeditionary Force and was off to France. The fiasco of Dunkirk resulted in T.E. being captured five miles from the beach: going the wrong way to escape the Germans. For the duration of the war T.E. moved from concentration camp to concentration camp whenever the Germans fancied moving him. Since everyone had to do their bit, T.E. was assigned to Bill Bright. Bill was an expert "adjuster of documents" who joined the army when things in London got a little too hot. To join the army Bill dropped his age by ten years and slipping the recruiter a fake fiver: one of his first grade fake fivers. T.E. was not enthusiastic about doing more menial work. He wanted to get at the Jerries with a knife. Bill was patient with T.E. as he saw promise in the lad. T.E. had good hands and an eye to details. Slowly, and after several early bumps, T.E. and Bill became a good working partnership. As the war continued, the need for good forged German documents became understood. Over time Bill's TB worked against him while T.E.'s skills became better and better.
After being moved to Stalag Luft III the plan for the great escape required vast quantities of forged German documents. That work fell upon a small group which included T.E. Of all the people who worked on the various tunnels only 200 would be able to escape. The escapees were split into two groups. The first group of 100, called "serial offenders", were the best escapee's who spoke German and had good papers or were serial escapes, plus an additional 70 men who did the most work on the tunnels. The second group of 100, called "hard-arsers" were considered to have very little chance of success and would travel by night as they spoke little or no German and had the most basic fake papers.
T.E. worked long and hard and was really pleased with his forgeries. The morning after the escape the Gestapo descended on the camp with an iron fist. Hitler wanted revenge. Part of that revenge was knowing exactly what happened. The Gestapo interviewed everyone in the camp. Then they went through every building counting everything to understand how vast the escape plans were. T.E. survived, many did not. Many of the escapees were summarily shot. Then the Gestapo moved everyone still standing to new locations.
At the end of the war T.E. really did not want to return to England. He knew what was there and had no desire going back to his old profession. He would rather use his new skills to enjoy life. One night he slipped away, changed into dirty German clothes and joined the masses on the move. His excellent German was from Berlin and soon became the proud owner of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) passport. He was grateful his mother taught him German and then taught him to keep it a secret between the two of them. T.E. thought in German and spoke in English, an odd mix which he mastered early in life.
T.E. gravitated to the wild destruction of Berlin. The Russians still ruled, raped and pillaged while the other allies struggled to gain a foothold in the city. In the mess not too many paid close attention to the paper currencies that rolled about the devastation. T.E. kept things simple, never too greedy, and rotated through the various currencies. In March 1946, T.E. was on the move, he chose New York. T.E. along with his fellow dogs of war who also had no desire to work hard and planned to pool their talents when they got to America. In the right quarters T.E. was crowned king of the printing press and was assisted in his goals.
When T.E. put the phone down after talking to Ann in New Bern, he called James who called Agent Peterson from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing section of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. They were chasing the origins of good quality, but fake, $10.00 and $100.00 bills. The notes were T.E.'s second quality. They did their job by getting the right people interested.
The next day Fay traveled to Goose Creek State Park for the meeting. T.E. arrived early as he liked to get out into the country, stretch his legs and breathe clean air rather than the pollution of New York. He missed the outdoor life of the concentration camps. From his vantage point he could watch Ann pull into the park and make sure she was not followed. "How are you this fine morning Mrs. Bancroft?" T.E. asked as he held open the door.
"Any earlier I'll have to wake up the birds."
"Then you would miss the best part of the day."
"The best part?
"Yes, the best part when everything is new and waking up."
"Do you enjoy the mornings?
"Every one," said T.E. as he looked at the young Ann. Fortunately she never new the taste of war. "And the earlier the better." TE added while Ann straightened out her skirt and looked about.
Turning to face T.E. she started with, "Let's get down to business so I can get some beauty sleep." Ann was not good early in the morning.
"Okay," T.E. said. He liked working with the young generation but did not like their lackadaisical attitude to business. They wanted everything for free. "The bills are doing their work. Have you been using them?"
"Just like you said, big bills for the bank and small bills for the small people." T.E. nodded slightly as he listened. That was the orders as usually given.
"Seems someone at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing section has been doing their homework. They are getting quicker, you know." He thought for a bit, then added, "You better be ready to move soon."
Then with a smile Ann said, "Don't worry about the old man, just let me know when the Fed's start to move and I'll be out."
"So why the visit?"
"I think he wanted to ask…"
"Didn't have the nerve?"
"No," was the simple reply.
"As you say," said T.E. That was one of his favorite sayings: he heard it in a movie.
"I would say so. Who else had brought so many $100.00 bills into the area except yours truly? How big a rat is that?"
"Then I'd say we are almost done. Say a day or so and then make a gracious exit."
"Good. I'm missing the big city: you know, the big life. Being here has driven me crazy. Too quiet." Then she added, "I just don't know how people can do it." T.E. smiled to himself as he escorted Ann back to her car and shook her hand. She liked the formality and steadiness that T.E. brought to every operation he was involved in. On the other side, T.E. was wondering if he will ever understand this new generation and was glad he never married to worry about children growing up.
Two days later the Fed's were back and were looking for real answers. They had tracked down a large deposit of fake $100.00 bills to the golf course developers who, in turn, pointed at the bank manager. And they wanted a detailed audit of the city of New Bern as they had discovered Annabel Davis was the city's accountant. During the search the Fed's discovered a pile of forged $100.00 bills tucked neatly away. The Federal Inspectors smelt blood and searched more fervently uncovering even more in a second place.
Annabel Davis was a diligent and careful city accountant. She had learnt all too well from her father what real poverty was and the power of having a single penny. During the depression she remembered clearly the time and effort her father put into save the family farm. The long days in the fields and barns then the heavy nights going over his legers trying to find a penny or two to buy left-over bread or some old potatoes. No matter how he diced it, he was finished. Failure alone is one thing, but failure with a family is entirely different. A millstone is lighter than the load Annabel's father felt when he sat down with his wife and went over their financial affairs. Fortunately his wife was prudent and had a small nest egg put aside for a rainy day. The savings came from the good days when they sold eggs, cream and butter in town. It was small but enough to use as they walked away from the farm, loaded up the truck and headed along Route 66 to California.
Annabel's diligence, care and kindness were well known throughout New Bern. The accolades she received hid the fact that she found having and raising an only son a total bore. The boy consumed an inordinate amount of time. Time she resented and found stifling by having to talk below her new found station in life. Marriage to a Davis, especially one descended from Jefferson Finis Davis brought with it a certain amount of respect which the Davis' enjoyed. They enjoyed the parties, gatherings and golf foursomes with the right persons from New Bern. The boy, as she called him, did not fit in with her plans and continuously and consistently let her husband know it. Even though they were well off by most standards, they felt that once the boy was eight, he was too old to have a babysitter. From eight onward the boy searched the house from top to bottom and discovered every secret the house had to offer, including his father's secret stash of Brandy. Of course the boy tried cigarettes in the smoking room. He promptly threw-up.
By the time the boy reached high school his parents had stamped him as incorrigible and found more events to attend leaving the boy home alone with his two friends.
T.E. watched Mrs. Bancroft drive away and then waited thirty minutes before also leaving. His short trip was to the other side of the park, a short ten minutes. He walked the short distance from the parking lot down to the lake's edge where he opened his breakfast sandwich of good strong German bread and garlic sausage. T.E. ate only a little sausage as the garlic was good and strong. He sat looking at the ducks coming and going in the freedom that they had. In that instant he was back in Berlin sitting on the banks of the Muggelsee.
The noise of a car brought T.E. back to the USA and the work at hand. Sergeant Hans Georg Schultz was short, skinny and deferential as ever. The Russians caught him at St. Petersburg but he got away only to fall into the German army who treated him as a deserter and was due to be shot at dawn. That night his position was overran by the Russians and his outlook was grim.
Even though Herr Schultz's father was Jewish he had married a devout Catholic which meant Herr Schultz was raised Catholic but never claimed any religious attachment until that day standing beside the cattle train ready to take him into the folds of mother Russia. With surprising passion Herr Schultz would tell his story to anyone who would listen. As he stood there, waiting to climb in to the cattle car, he saw an angel point to a small space beside some luggage also waiting to be loaded onto the same train. He walked over to the angel and lay face down in the small space just in time to be covered by a fresh dusting of snow. With noise all about him he remained still and surprisingly worm despite the cold Russian wind and the snow.
When the train was gone and there were no other manmade noises, Herr Schultz stood up and gazed about. He was alone on the wrong side of the battle line. It was then that the cold got to him. Or rather, as he would say, his faith deserted him. The minute he looked west he saw the same angel waiting for him… and he followed. Herr Schultz would say he followed that angel through the Russian lines, through Berlin all the way to Paris and in to Vichy France. It was there he joined the OAS and violently fought against the Vichy government. His specialty was a quiet death usually by snapping the neck.
"Harry, Harry Smith. How are you these days?" was T.E.'s worm greeting accompanied by their usual double hand shake. They were old friends from Berlin days.
"Fine, fine and so is Juanita." Harry's accent was strong Bronx. He had been taking speech lessons to loose his Bavarian accent.
"Any little ones yet?"
"None at the moment: but we are trying." Harry married the young Juanita in New York. Her parents made it out of Spain just before the swine Franco overrun the country. Taking a deep breath and looking about, Harrys added, "This area reminds me of home. Peace and quiet, just like life should be."
"Yes, but I like it more in the winter months without the heat and mosquitoes."
"Ah, you like the coolness, just like Germany."
T.E. nodded as they started their stroll. They rested easy in each other's company. After a while they got down to business when T.E. asked, "And the work?"
"Fine… fine. I have everything ready. Fifteen thousand dollars will disappear this week from the books. Only five thousand will be deposited into Mrs. Davis' bank account, some in selected locations, the rest will magically reappear after the dust settles."
For the past three months Harry had been working at New Bern city hall as the janitor. Since work was slow he doubled up as the message boy, the go-getter, the errand boy and the person who made the best damn coffee anyone could remember. All this activity allowed Harry to move about city hall as just another piece of furniture. Within one month Harry knew where all the keys were kept and the routine everyone followed. Small town USA works to a routine that is easy to decipher. Within two months Harry had the financial system memorized and had sent T.E. samples of city hall paper letterhead, checks and Annabel Davis' signature. Everything T.E. had asked for.
"And then back to New York?"
"No, I think a little travel is in order. Juanita would like to go home for a visit. It seems her family left a few items they would like back. Certain arrangements have been made and I think everything is getting ready for us."
"Badajoz, just over the border from Portugal."
"She survived General Juan Yagüe, the butcher of Badajoz?"
"She did… many of her family died in the bullring. Fortunately she was gone. Unfortunately she remembers those who were killed."
"And now we like Franco and his ways. It is so funny how people accept him. I have often wondered if Hitler had survived would he be treated like Franco as a fine ally to have?"
After spitting on the ground Harry Smith replied, "Hitler was bad but the Germans loved him. He could kill the Jews and be worshipped as a liberator at the same time. I don't understand it. That is why I love New York and its freedoms. Problems, some; nothing like Germany and Spain."
"As you say," mused T.E.
Finally Harry had to ask his question. "Have you been to church lately?" Since finding religion in Russia he wanted everyone else to do the same. After the war Herr Schultz started on his quest to find the right religion to join. Being a catholic he started there and reveled in the fact there was an unbroken line of authority back to St. Peter in Rome. Since the Protestants were excommunicated from the one true church, they had no authority and could easily be discounted. Then in London Herr Schultz stumbled upon the Mormons. It was one Sunday morning at Hyde Park Corner Herr Schultz was wandering from religious bigot to bigot… all Protestants. Except the Mormons. They were talking about a restoration of all things. Having never heard of the Mormons Herr Schultz stopped to listen. Their message was simple. There had been a restoration of authority and now existed in a prophet living in Salt Lake City, Utah. The minute Herr Schultz understood that this was an American religion he was ready to leave, except he was puzzled about authority. When the two men had finished, Herr Schultz walked away thinking. His conclusion was simple and succinct. If the Catholic Church was true, all else was false. If the Mormons were true then Catholicism was false and the Protestants are still out in the cold as they are nothing more than a splinter group off the Catholic Church. Satisfied he went home to read his well thumbed Douay Bible.
"I am thinking about it. Actually I am thinking along the lines of a deathbed confession. That way I can enjoy life and repent at the end."
"What if you miss the end… then what?"
"How can I miss the end? Where else would I be?"
"Not able to recognize the end is the end. Say you were in a car accident. You would not know it was the end and could not get a priest in time."
"Fortunately, I shall plan better than that."
"How? No one knows the end from the beginning." Then Herr Schultz added in a more solemn tone, "We're all living on borrowed time." Borrowed time was a constant theme running through Berlin after the war. Everybody should have died somewhere, somehow, but did not. They were classified as guilty by the fact they were living and not dead with their comrades in Valhalla. T.E. knew they were on borrowed time and chose not to dwell in that fact. He felt borrowed time meant time to do something with it. Time to move forward. Time to be engaged in a worthwhile cause to make life more enjoyable with the minimal amount of effort.
"Yes we are, and don't you forget it. Without borrowed time you would have never married Juanita. So be grateful for all the borrowed time you have."
"That is why I like you so much," Harry said with his restored broad smile, "You always know the right thing to say. For you everything is half full."
When they walked back to their cars, Harry pressed one last time, "Don't forget to read your Bible. Promise?"
"Okay, I'll do that just for you." T.E. could never say no to Harry as it was Harry that saved T.E's life one fight over a girl in Berlin. They parted as friends always part, with a hug and a promise to see each other soon.
With the vultures circling Danny Davis' parents thought it best if he was out of the line of fire. They sent him away to live with his aunt up north in Vermont. No one was upset that he was no longer in school except Justin and Pete Jenkins. Without their protection they were fair game and retribution came quickly and hard while they walked to school.
It was a quiet evening when Noah and Jason's father took a walk in the evening mist outside Noah's home. They were enjoying the fresh smell of fried fish. With two cans of beer they toasted absent New York army buddies.
A short while later the New York Times carried a small article in the foreign section of a theft of ancient jewels from the well guarded museum in Badajoz, Spain. T.E. read the article and smiled to himself. Even though vengeance is sweet, it can not bring back slaughtered loved ones.
In 1968, when Jane was a senior, Jane became serious about politics. She was sick and tired with the lying LBJ. She was passionately against the war in Vietnam and brought protests to New Bern high school. The principal had never seen so many anti-war posters about the campus. Jane and her friends had hit the school hard the minute it opened and had hundreds of posters up and were handing them out to everyone.
The war, Kent State, and the heavy handed Johnson pushed Jane into the Republican camp and they were glad to have a firecracker on their side. They liked her attitude, not too sure of her being a girl in a male dominated world. She worked tirelessly for the Republican Nixon and for his landslide reelection.
In May 1968 Jane graduated from high school and by fall was at Meredith College. Jane was majoring in English hoping to teach English after graduation. Since Meredith was not cheap, Jane took out student loans and worked part time on and off campus. Noah and Allie were not too pleased with Jane for taking out loans, but were in no position to say so. So they supported her in many small ways.
It was late November 1971; Jane was carrying fifteen hours and working in a downtown Durham coffee shop when she first saw Wilson Lewis. He was firmly ensconced at a corner table upon which he had spread his books. Since business was slow she picked up his table. She liked what she saw, was between boyfriends, and looking for someone to hang out with… and pay for meals. It was slow going at first. Jane tried all the usual girl things. Nothing seemed to work. Actually, she saw a small flame but no amount of fanning helped: including the legendary Delta Nu 'Bend and Snap' routine. A girl can only do so much before it is time to move on.
The last trick Jane had was the umbrella trick. It only works when it rains, so timing is everything. Wilson was tucked in the corner while Jane studied the impending clouds. The storm moved in and the rain came down hard. Jane got off a little early and made sure her large golfing umbrella was safely out of the way as she walked up to Wilson who was engrossed with something. She made enough noise to get his attention and then added in the classic 'letting the hair down' look by removing the ribbon from her ponytail. With a little shake her hair cascaded down about her shoulders. With a cute smile and a soft voice Jane asked, "Would you mind walking me to my car? I noticed your umbrella and I'd rather not get wet." The flame in Wilson's eye stuttered for a second, then got a little brighter. He had taken the bate but was far from being caught and landed. Jane was happy to have gotten this far as Wilson was shy. He gathered up his things, held the door open, and together walked through the rain to Jane's car. She walked close enough so her hair would brush against Wilson. It's a good trick to do. Rather than jump into the car and drive off, Jane turned to face Wilson and said, " You're kind of shy, aren't you." It caught Wilson way off guard. Then she added, "It's okay, Wilson, I happen to like shy." With that she got in the car and drove off carefully into the night.
Since Wilson did not come back to the diner Jane assumed it was time to move on and had arranged to go out with Tim who was studying to be a chemical engineer. She was disappointed with Wilson, but not surprised.
The night Jane and Tim had planned to go out together was the morning Wilson went back to the diner. Even though the diner was busy Wilson had impeccable timing. His usual booth had just become vacant. He sad down, opened a book, bent his head over the open pages and pretended to be studying when the waitress approached. Wilson looked up with expectation which vanished in a flash, it was one of the other waitresses.
"Would you like the some coffee this morning?" was the question.
"Yes, please," was the diminutive reply.
"Back in a minute," The waitress said. She didn't even bother to write it down, she had been there a long time and had the routine down. After she left poor Wilson looked forlornly about hoping to catch a glance of Jane. He saw her across the diner taking plates from the kitchen to the other end if the diner. With a legal eye Wilson could not discern anything magical about the way Jane moved or carried herself. With a satisfactory sigh Wilson thought he had seen past what was there: he had seen not saw.
With a tinge of dejection, Wilson ordered a simple breakfast. For some reason, he could not quite explain, his apatite had gone. While supping the hot coffee and reading his text book he heard a voice that made his heart skip a beat.
"Hi, Wilson. I didn't see you last weekend; I thought I must have scared you away." In that second, Wilson fell into a catatonic state and it showed on his face. "Wilson, are you okay?" Jane quickly asked.
"Yes," he muttered from a deep stupor. Then the conversation died a fast death.
"Well… good. I'm sorry I didn't see you come in. I would have had you sit in my section. You're just about the closest thing I have to a regular customer."
"Yes," Wilson said in a strange strangled voice from somewhere about the bottom of his boots. It was at that point he got really tongue tied and could not think of another work in English.
The pause in the conversation took on a life of its own. Then realizing the end had come, Jane looked away and said, "I can see you're busy. I just wanted to come over and say hello, and to thank you again for walking me to my car. Enjoy your breakfast."
Realizing what a stupid pickle he was in Wilson managed to say the only word on his mind, "Jane?"
Searching through Johnson's dictionary and Hobson-Jobson, Wilson was inspired to ask, "Maybe I could walk you to your car again sometime. Even if it's not raining."
Feeling satisfied he could speak Jane added, "That would be nice, Wilson"
"Maybe later today?"
"Sure," Jane said forgetting all about Tim.
"Would you like to have dinner with me this weekend?"
With a rye smile and a twinkle in her eye Jane said, "Yes, Wilson. I'd like that very much." She had just found the Snark and it was not a Boojum. Now she had to tell Tim that tonight was off: something more important had just come up.
Their first trial came after their third date. Wilson and Jane were walking across campus when, walking in the opposite direction, one of Wilson's study group approached at a fast pace. As they got close he hailed out, "Ready for Sunday with your brief?"
Wilson replied with a firm, "Have it covered," and they passed on.
"Sunday, when?" Asked Jane.
"When is your study group?"
"Oh, that. We meet on Sunday morning at 10am. It's our regular meeting."
"Don't you go to church?"
"Ah, no. I'm an atheist."
"That is the way I was raised."
"Your parents to?"
"And grandparents on my mother's side." Wilson added with some pride in his voice.
"Have you ever been to church or read the Bible?"
"No and no. Sorry, yes, of course, I have been to church with friends. More just to go… you know, be polite."
"Why an atheist?"
"Just am. That's the way I was raised."
"Didn't you ever ask?"
"Why you were raised and atheist?"
"No, why should I?"
Jane crossed her arms and gave Wilson a hard look. She had never met an atheist or an agnostic. She didn't know what to do. She had a deep seated suspicion of anyone who was not a true blue, died in the wool Christian: preferably a card carrying Southern Baptist Christian. Then she asked, "Ever read the Bible?"
"No, we never had one at home."
"What about the library?"
"Why get one out if I'm not interested?"
"Because it is not only a religious book, it's also a part of our American History landscape: and you are an American.
Wilson had never heard that argument for reading the Bible. His normal anti-religious arguments did not cover that point. He was mulling over the notion of the Bible being part of the American landscape. He liked that line of argument and was wondering if he could use it in the Sunday debate.
Jane recognized the signs of Wilson drifting away from the conversation. She snapper her fingers in front of the wandering Wilson and said, "Wilson, you are loosing the conversation!"
"No I'm not," was his slow reply as he rejoined her but forgot the thread of the conversation. Then he remembered, "I was just thinking about what you said."
"And what was that?" pounded Jane.
"That the Bible was worth reading."
"Good. And when will you start?"
"I said nothing about reading the Bible."
"You also said nothing about not reading the Bible."
"That is not the point of the discussion…"
"Then what is?" Cut in Jane. Seeing Wilson stumble she added, "What is the point of having all the men of the scriptures testifying that there is a Savior? Why did the Apostles and Apostolic Fathers lay down their lives for what they knew to be true? What is the point of all the men suffering death to translate the Bible into English so you and I could read it for ourselves?" Then with a calm surety Jane added, "And who is there on your side of the argument? Satin and his followers?"
There is a saying that the word of God is sharper than a two edged sward. Wilson felt the onslaught of blows to his body and soul. They were fast and deep. He looked at Jane, put up one hand to stop her from further barbs, then left. He had to put space between them to think.
Wilson retreated to his quiet space in the library. He did not pull out any book. He sat there with a blank look on his face and thought. He was trying, in a rational manner, to review his relationship with Jane. Being in the thick of the relationship he could not look at it from a disinterested point of view. Every time he tried, his heart got in the way of his head. Finally he had to admit he really enjoyed being with Jane. He enjoyed her quietness when they studied together. He enjoyed the peace he felt when she was near. He enjoyed her jokes, funny faces she pulled, and the stories she would tell about her family. On the down side, Jane did not like cooking, cleaning her apartment or grocery shopping. On the up side, she had patience that came from growing up in a large family. On the down side, she did exhibit typical first child symptoms. On the up side, Wilson felt a completeness ne had never felt before, even when he was living at home. He had to admit to himself, he was better off with Jane than without her. Then a thought struck Wilson: he really liked Jane.
Their dating was haphazard at best. Fitting dates about schedules, studies and exams is challenging at best, but they made it work. The more they saw of each other the more they liked what they saw. Soon they were a solid working pair that chose their class schedules to maximize time together. Often the date would be sitting together in the library studying away. Not a word being said, but each enjoying having the other within reach. They were learning about the deep bond that exists in the closeness of souls.
In June 1972 Jane graduated from Meredith Collage with a teaching degree. It was a major milestone for the Calhoun family. First child to go to university and the first one to graduate. She had set the tone for the rest of the siblings. It was at the graduation ceremony that Wilson met Jane's parents for the first time.
Noah and Allie Calhoun drove to the graduation ceremony so they could help bring home some of Jane's items. It was in the stadium that Wilson saw Noah and Allie for the first time.
"You must be Wilson," Noah said holding out his hand.
"Ah, yes… that's right," replied the very nervous Wilson. His handshake resembled a wet dead fish. Noah was amused by the young boy's predicament. They were to sit together for the next few hours, and wondered what on earth they were going to talk about. When Allie arrived she gave poor Wilson a hug. Any boy that Jane likes had to be good. Fortunately Allie sat between the men.
"And how are your studies going Wilson?" Allie asked after she settled into her small stadium seat.
"Fine, just fine."
"You hope to graduate next year, I hear."
"Yes, that's right."
"Lawyer Jane says," chimed in Noah.
"Any particular type?" Allie offered.
"Corporate, I think," was Wilson's short reply. He missed Allie's opening by a mile.
"Do you like the corporate world?" Noah queried. If there was one thing Noah was not keen on, it was corporate life. He could never fathom why anyone would want to live in a city surrounded by concrete, constant noise and abject congestion. While the countryside offered piece, tranquility and the ability to see the hand of God in all its glory and variation. He could not picture Jane in a city environment, not even for a minute.
"Why corporate?" asked Allie
"I think it is very interesting."
At the honest answer Noah almost fell out of his chair. He thought corporate life was as dry as hay and full of dirty business.
Trying something else, Allie inquired, "Did your parents attend your graduation?"
"No, they are waiting for me to graduate from law school."
"Oh, that's interesting," was Allie's seemingly simple reply. Noah knew that simple reply contained more than what the words conveys: so he gave his wife a gentle poke. They had talked previously of keeping the conversation on the lighter side and avoid any ambiguous comments: Lewis was not family.
Things stumbled along for a while and then the formal graduation ceremony got underway when the marching band entered behind the flags playing Pomp and Circumstance. It was the music that reminded Allie of the time she graduated from university. How proud her parents were. Now it was her turn to see her first born do the same.
The ceremony proceeded along usual lines. Speeches and self congratulations by the teachers before it was the graduates time to offer word of comfort to the graduating class. And then the conga line started to wend its way onto the stage to receive the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It was at that time Allie handed Noah the air horn. Out of the same bag Allie pulled out and unfolded the home made sign. When Jane approached the stage she gave her parents a slight wave. When she saw her father wave back with something in his hand, her smile wavered in apprehension. Her family was a bunch of practical jokesters.
It all started with Noah teaching each child the rhyme and actions of, 'A pinch and a punch for the first of the month. A punch and a kick for being so quick,' followed by the yell of, 'White rabbit!' Where this came from is lost in ancient family lore. Noah vaguely remembered it from his youth and a distant aunt, two or three times removed, on his mother's side. Noah's mother always muttered, "She should be locked up!" when she came by for Sunday lunch. Then, while stationed in England, he heard it being used by the local kids. He took that to be some kind of good omen, a favorable talisman for the action ahead.
The actions were simple. When yelling, 'A pinch and a punch…' that is what you did to whomever you were talking to. Likewise, 'A punch and a kick…' is also inflicted in the poor, unsuspecting kid. The magical properties bestowed upon the person who added, 'White rabbit' were immediate. The poor unsuspecting kid who has been pinched, punched and kicked, could not return the favor. The only catch to this entire episode was the fact it could not be used except on the first of each month. That meant on the first of each month, for as long as any Calhoun could remember, pandemonium reigned supreme for the first hour of the day as each of the kids chased each other. For some strange reason Allie would clout Noah for no good reason on the first of each month. She rued the day he taught that rhyme to her unsuspecting children. From that point on, practical jokes were the order of the day.
The next major family trick had to do with the yell of "Sandwich." Again the origins are obscure but Allie had the sneaking suspicion it originated with Noah and young Jeff. Noah had the habit of taking a nap on the couch after Sunday dinner. It was a time to unwind, relax, and get the batteries charged up for the new week. Often Jane would cuddle up with Noah on the couch and nap with her father. On the other hand, young Jeff had slept through church, was still wide awake and wanting to play. Two asleep and one awake was the recipe for something to happen. Since fussing, poking and dropping toys did not wake the sleeping duo, Jeff would go to the other side of the couch, climb up, and flop over on top of his sleeping sister and father. This action had the desired effect of waking up the sleepy heads. This simple beginnings slowly got out of hand.
Eventually anyone sprawled out on the couch was fair game for someone sneaking up on the blind side of the couch and then leaping over in such a way as to squash the unsuspecting family member. Usually this action was accompanied with the yell of "Sandwich" which had the unnerving effect of all the other children dropping what they were doing, rushing toward the couch and leaping on the pile in such a way as to squash the others lower down. When all the children were old enough to actively participate, the pile got to be five deep with Noah usually on the bottom. Amid the yells, groans and general wriggling, Noah would extricate himself from the pile only to run around the couch and jump on the kids. If someone was alert, and fast enough, they would get out of the pile as their father was the heaviest of them all! Allie tried to put her foot down on this family tomfoolery. It did not work: it was a family tradition not bragged about.
Maybe the biggest jokester was Kate. Since she was the baby of the family, could get away with anything, it was common for the older siblings to set her up then stand back and watch. About the first trick the older kids had Kate do was open the bathroom door on the unsuspecting Noah. Allie had been fussing at Noah for a few weeks to fix the loose lock when the kids found out it was not working. So it was simple to ask Kate to get something out of the bathroom, at the opportune moment, and listen to their father yell at poor Kate. Of course the yelling upset Kate who went running to her mother. Allie scolded Noah who took off to the hardware shop to get the necessary items to fix the lock.
Since it worked once, why not a second time? After a period of time, and one boring rainy day, Jeff worked on the bathroom lock. The lock was one of the old fashioned types with a large key. Being old there was a certain amount of wiggle room and skill in locking the door. Since timing had to be good several days went by before the stars were aligned again. Kate was summoned and sent off to get some soap from the occupied bathroom. The yells from Noah were mingled with the screeches of delight from the kids. This time Noah fixed the door with a simple sliding lock. Noah's furtive mind was in high gear planning his revenge.
The second Jane put out her had to shake the Dean's extended hand and receive her diploma roll, the polite clapping was ripped asunder with a long blast of an air horn as Noah and Allie stood to recognize their daughter. Every eye in the audience turned to face the source of the cacophony. They saw Noah and Allie on their feet. Noah was frantically waving the air horn with his finger on the trigger and Allie had her home made sign out that read, Our daughter made it! The other three kids quietly wished to die on the spot. They were guilty by association. That was the time they decided never to walk, just receive their diploma in the mail.
As quickly as Jane descended the stairs after receiving her diploma, the noise stopped then Noah and Allie resumed their seats as before.
The shock of the previous ten seconds was forever indelibly etched on each child's heart. Wilson was likewise affected. Wilson had never before seen such an outpouring of glee and frivolity in one small moment.
The largest difference between Wilson and Jane was religion. Jane had been brought up in a Southern Baptist family that believed in Christ, The Bible and church attendance. Wilson had not. His parents were atheists because of the war. Hence Wilson did not grow up exposed to church, The Bible or anything remotely religious except Christmas and the perfunctory presents from his parents.
Wilson won the discussion on marriage. He out played Jane; he out maneuvered Jane and he captured her queen. He did not see the damage the queens sward did to Jane's heart as she fell checkmated.
It was a civil marriage. Wilson wore a dark gray suit while Jane was dressed in a yellow sundress with a gladiola pinned in her hair. Wilson's parents did not attend while Jane's did. The ceremony lasted less than ten minutes, was perfunctory and perfectly legal. Noah and Allie put on a brave face and made the most of it realizing it was Wilson's and Jane's marriage and choice.
They married in November 1973 and after Wilson graduated with a law degree, they moved back to New Bern when he joined the law firm of Ambry and Saxton. The name would not change for a while as Joshua Tundle was still an associate and not a partner. Wilson took the rural position for his wife while he always assumed he would end up in a large law firm in New York. In marriages many sacrifices are made.
Jane and Wilson had three children, Anna, Joseph and Leslie.
It was August 23, 2002 when the marriage ran into serious difficulty. Wilson forgot their 29th wedding anniversary. It was not the first time Wilson had forgotten important dates, but this was not a small date, and looking back, June had been dropping small hints for quite a while: all of which Wilson missed.
Wilson knew he had to get his act together or else loose his wife due to neglect. He did. Their 30th wedding anniversary was so beautifully scripted and marvelously acted that Jane was unaware that the wedding was for her until the very last moment.
Jane's occurred when Anna came down the staircase in a dress for the bridesmaid, not the bride. The second inkling occurred when Anna revealed the veil and put it on her mother's head. The third and final inkling occurred when she turned and faced her husband who took her hands in his, and lifted them gently to his lips.
Once Wilson was in his proper place, the wedding commenced with Noah escorting his lovely daughter down the isle. He had waited an awful long time to perform the rights of a father at a wedding.
Harvey Wellington opened the wedding with a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving to the bride and groom and for friends assembled for this glorious time. With such a blessing the wedding got underway in grand style.
The wedding was followed by a reception much talked about and to which every other was compared for years to come. Simply put the food followed by dancing was glorious in every respect. During the dancing Wilson and Jane were hard to part. The only time they did was to dance with their children. Each one whispering some deep dark secret kept throughout the past year, or when they were sure Jane would catch them out in a lie. And so a new family legend was made that would be handed down throughout all time and into the eternities.
As the clock slowly inched closer to midnight, more and more gests left basking in the reflective joy they had just witnessed. When the glass slipper hour arrived, Peterson slowly closed the piano lid. Jane gave him a huge hug to which he replied, "I wouldn't have missed this for the world."
Then Jane thanked Harvey Wellington for officiating. Harvey held up his hand and said, "No need for thanks, There's nothing more wonderful than being part of something like this. It's what marriage is all about."
"I'll give you a call so we can all have dinner together."
"I'd like that."
"And you can then tell me your roll in all this."
Harvey chuckled and replied, "My part was easy: I just had to wait for you two to show up." With that Harvey and his wife walked, hand in hand, to his house.
The kids were sitting and standing about a table nibbling away and going back over the past subterfuge. Each one adding into the pot if information as none were told the entire plan, just their specific roll into making the entire evening better than the sum of the parts.
Finally Jane and Wilson joined in the family fun. It was then that Wilson realized Noah was not with them. Wilson found him down by the river talking to the swan.
About one in the morning the children left with Joseph taking Noah back to the care home. The minute Joseph started rolling down the road Noah fell asleep. It had been a long night for everyone. Wilson and Jane had decided to stay at the house for the night. They were in no rush to go anywhere!
It was September 15, 2003 at 2 a.m. when the phone rang. It woke Wilson up and he half answered it. Jane sort of woke up and sort of listened. Once Wilson understood the caller was the duty nurse from Creekside Extended Care Facility he knew the news was not going to be good. It wasn't. Noah had suffered a major heart attack and was already on his way to the Carolina East Health System hospital. Once he heard the hospital name he was totally awake and shaking his wife. They were out of the house in five minutes flat and on their way to the hospital. Wilson drove while Jane grappled with the prospect of loosing her remaining parent.