‘She Wanders As She Ponders’ All the while— she wanders as she ponders.
Why does love have to hurt so much?
The liquor—oh, how it packs a punch.
And why does Momma cry and such?
Poppa—he tells lies—by the bunch.
All the while— she wanders as she ponders.
If only—it'd come to pass for a single day
Happiness visited—oh, how she’d pray
Momma might smile in abundant array.
The cops, they wouldn’t take Poppa away.
All the while— she wanders as she ponders.
With each ratchet of the stick upon the fence
If wishes came true—life would be less intense.
Someday, somehow—it would all make sense.
No more drama—certainly gone—all pretense.
All the while— she wanders as she ponders.
One more walk ‘round the block might tell.
At least she’d like to think all would be well.
She would ask—perhaps, Poppa wouldn’t yell.
And Momma’s heart—only happiness dare dwell.
Have you ever noticed how sometimes when you meet new people for the first time, you hit it off? Then there are those people you meet, and they barely get a sentence out and you form an opinion. That’s what happened to me the first time I met my new boss, Gage Bestin. He had slicked back, Antonio Banderas style hair, and sexy, coal-black-eyes. Yet, as soon as he opened his mouth, he ticked me off, big time. “Mel, as soon as you finish making copies of the new HOAs, I want you to distribute them along with the EOM data for the property management team meeting later this morning. Post next week’s maintenance schedule, and then don’t forget to call Mrs. Mellory about her past-due rent check. And forevermore,” he said thrusting his coffee cup in the air toward me, “make a fresh pot of coffee, because this stuff tastes like tar. Then, I want you to come to my office.” “My name is Nell, not Mel. Nell with an N, as in Nell Waverly, Mr. Bestin.” Damn, who says all that in one sentence to someone they’ve never met? I look at the clock on the wall above his head, and it isn’t even nine-thirty, for crying out loud. I feel like Dolly Parton in 'Nine To Five'. I count to three, blow a stray hair out of my face, and then give back as good as I got. “Quite frankly, Mr. Bestin, your rudeness could have been avoided had you looked at the conference room table. You would have seen the new HOA's copied and properly distributed for the meeting. On top of which, I completed the EOM reports, and sent via PDF to all staff first thing this morning. Mrs. Mellery’s check sits on my desk as we speak because when I got my frappuccino at Mellery’s Coffee House this morning, she gave it to me. Moreover, I cannot post the new maintenance schedule until you approve it. As for the tar you are drinking, should you fork over more than a few bucks for generic coffee, then you could have a decent cup of said brew. But, please, far be it for me to complain.” Gage grins and reaches into his pocket for a twenty-dollar bill. “Okay, Nell with an N, Waverly, I'll take Dark French Roast. I prefer Starbucks, but Mellery’s Coffee House will suffice. Let's see ..." he says, looking at his watch, "you should return within twenty-minutes, so I'll expect freshly brewed coffee soon thereafter. And, of course, as you already know, I like it black.” He turns on his heel, winks at Lily the receptionist, and then closes the door to his office, smiling all the way.
* * *
What a day! I deserve this night after what that ogre put me through today. Fudge, but he is a test in determination and staying power. As I look around the kitchen, it smells mighty fine, thank you very much, mother ... candles on the table for romance ... the wine is breathing. And, not to forget Andrea Bocelli in the background. I smile, not too shabby if I do say so myself. One last glance in the mirror, and girl, who says jazzercise is dead, because these hips look mighty fine. A boat neck blouse with a touch of cleavage to flatter, pinch of the cheeks for effect, and a little lip-gloss, strawberry, I should think. All I’ve got to say is this Blind Date Matchmaking better be worth it. The online chats have been hmmm, most interesting to say the least. Maybe tonight will be ooh-la-la. The buzzing doorbell brought her out of her musing. Okay, Nell, that bell is for you. I walk to the door and swing it wide, but instead of looking into the face of my date, a mighty fine looking tush meets my eyes. Oh, yes, indeed, I decide as a smile takes over my face. “Excuse me. Is something wrong?” “Sorry, one of my contact fell out,” he says. “Oh, okay,” I say, and then join him on the floor, on all fours. “Where do you think it went?” “Hah!” he says when our eyes meet. “You!” I jumped to my feet. “Why are you at my house?” “Nell with N,” he says, pointing at me. “You’re “Quiet Nights” and “Espionage” from Blind Date Matchmaking?” “You’re Class Act” and “Good for a Laugh?” I say just as surprised. We stand, sizing up each other; sort of like, who will strike the first blow? Then it occurs to me, if I sweeten up Mr. Dictator a bit, life could be better at work. I smile. “Well, you’re here, and you can’t be all that bad, at least if you brought Class Act and Good for a Laugh along instead of my crusty old butthead of a boss.” Oh, jeez, I just called my new boss crusty and a butthead all in one sentence. I roll my eyes and shake my head. Way to go, Nell. Gage grins. “Quiet Nights, what makes me think this will be anything but? Espionage maybe, if you call me a crusty ole butthead one more time.” I suddenly burst into laughter. “Well, I guess I could have left outolesince you don’t quite pass for an old goat, yet.” “Perhaps we could call a truce for the night,” Gage says. “I’ve rather enjoyed getting to know Quiet Nights and Espionage through the keyboard of our computers these last weeks. What do you say a truce?” he asks, offering his hand. “Truce,” I say. “I have to admit, you have made me laugh a time or two. Come on in. We can always drown our sorrows in Pinot Grigio if all else fails. Oh, but wait a minute. What about your contact?” “Not to worry, I wear them more out of habit now than need since my laser treatment, so I can get by.” Surprisingly enough, the time ticked away without further ripples. “Well, that wasn’t so bad. We actually finished the main course, still have wine in the bottle, and neither one of us has a black eye yet. Perhaps there is hope for the ole crusty butthead after all.” I took a deep breath. “I am sorry. I don’t know what comes over me when you’re around. You seem to bring out the worst in me, I daresay.” Gage leaned his elbows on the table and steepled his hands with a challenging look on his face. “If you put as much into being nice as you do in calling out your boss, perhaps we could have another glass of wine, and then discuss how beautiful and sexy you look tonight. Is that Essence of Lavender teasing my senses?” Damn, he does know how to say the right things. Well, at least sometimes. Okay, here goes, bucko. I lean my crossed arms on the table. “You don’t look so bad yourself in your cashmere sweater and that diamond stud in your ear. Is that Calvin Klein’s Eternity teasing me?” “Could be,” he said with a country mile-wide grin. “I must say, though, perhaps I owe you an apology for earlier today.” “Be still, my heart, Mr. Bestin, am I hearing correctly?” I couldn’t help but poke some fun at him. Nevertheless, that damn smile will be my undoing. “Nell with an N,” he said holding his hand out to me with a sexy, lopsided grin. “I am sorry for selling you short first thing this morning. More to the point, I can’t help but enjoy your choice of music.” I took his hand. “So true, I understand Class Act does like Andrea Bocelli.” His gaze never leaves mine as he takes a sip of wine with his free hand. “Would Quiet Nights or Espionage care to dance?” Before answering, I linger while tipping my wine glass. When he takes my hand to rise, I think, holy-moly as a bolt of electricity shoots through my body; my eyes go all squiggly. “I believe either one of us would be quite pleased to take on Mr. Bocelli.” Damn, I think when he takes my hand as ‘Besume Mucho’ begins to flow from Andrea’s golden tongue. Calm down, nether regions. “Well,” I say, trying to recover, “let’s not keep him waiting.” He dances me around my small living room in silence, and the whole time, I love the way I feel in his arms. “Perhaps I should promote you from crusty ole butthead to nice handful of tush, Mr. Bestin.” Gage twirled and then dips me. “Why Nell, are you flirting with your boss?” With the mixture of Pinot Grigio, Eternity, and Andrea continuing to niggle at my senses, I look him straight in the eyes. “I believe that will depend on who shows up at work tomorrow.” “I’m very safe in saying, if you throw out that hideous coffee tasting of tar you tried to serve me this morning, handful of tush will gladly show up. But I warn you, if hideous coffee is a repeat, crusty ole butthead will show his ugly face.” Then he dipped me once more and feathered kisses over my cleavage. Yes, thank you, God for boat necks! “Whew, I’ll take out stock in Dark French Roast, Mr. Bestin.” With Andrea Bocelli continuing his magic in the background, Class Act and Quiet Nights discover they could make their own kind of espionage with a good laugh every now and again, and throughout the night.
* * *
The next morning when I arrive at work an hour early to run some reports, twelve, one-pound bags of Dark French Roast from Mellery’s are on my desk in a basket, with an envelope attached. Inside are two tickets to an Andrea Bocelli concert, with a note attached. Nell with an N, I have provided the Dark French Roast. So, if you provide a quiet night with some espionage, I’ll be good for a laugh with a class act.” I pick up a package of coffee, walk over to Gage’s closed office door, and tap on it. “Enter at your own risk.” I open the door, walk in, and then close it while holding the pound of coffee in my hand. “I will certainly retire crusty ole butthead for a handful of tush, Mr. Bestin.” I smile as I walk toward him. He smiles and leans back in his chair, his hands behind his head. I grin. Who says you can’t mix business with pleasure?
Mandy, tall, with silky brown hair, stood at the doorway giving her husband a kiss before sending him off to work at his law firm. She had a strong desire for much more this morning, but circumstance would not permit.
Dirk, six-three, with black-hair, could read his wife’s needs by her inviting kiss, which made the urge to take her on the spot most inviting as he cupped her derriere and pressed her womanly assets closer to him. Nonetheless, an early court time would not allow for any dallying today. Married thirteen years, she still turned him on with just a look, a touch. He copped a feel of her breast through her coveted Joe Montana jersey, and cocked his head with an irresistible smile. “Will it be enough to last?”
“Only, until we meet, later,” she said, running the tip of her tongue over her lips, while molding her hand over his erection.
“You little tease.” He smiled. “Your Mamma warned me about you.” He gave her a peck on the cheek, opened the door, and closed it behind him.
“And don’t forget it, either, baby,” she called through the door, grinning.
He stood on the other side, still smiling as he rearranged his need. “Mrs. Lowenbacher, you are pushing it,” he called back as he hit the garage door button, and then got into the car and drove away.
^ ^ ^
At 4:00 p.m., Mandy walked into her country style kitchen of warm earth tones. She dumped her car keys, purse, and two bags of groceries onto the counter of the island, just as her cell phone rang. She quickly dug into her bottomless purse to fish for her phone. “Oh, crap! You dipstick, it’s gone to voicemail.” She swiped the screen, only to see Braxton City Medical Center as the caller. “Well, you’ll get paid, when you get paid, so cool your haunches.” Damn, hospital-billing department can just wait. Mother’s been gone a year and still they, and the insurance can’t get it together.
She put the groceries away, took a quick shower, put on her sexy, yellow sundress, which Dirk adored her in, and poured a glass of sweet tea. Even after a shower, it was a scorching Arizona day, so she put the iced glass to her cheek, “Awe, pure heaven.”
She looked at her phone and saw the voicemail light blinking. She frowned at the call that came in while she showered. Sure enough, the same number as before. I may as well bark at them again for the umpteenth time.”
She dialed, and then waited for eight rings.
“Good afternoon, Braxton City Medical Center, how may I help you today?”
“By not harassing me anymore,” Mandy spouted, “you people keep calling me to pay bills that are not mine.”
“I’m truly sorry, Ma’am, but I’m reception. If you’ll give me your name and address, I'll be better able to verify how to route this call to the appropriate person in the billing department.
Mandy drummed her fingers on the counter-top. “My name is Mandy Marie Lowenbacher. The case number you keep calling me about is my deceased mother, Alicia Stenson, #7548221.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry for your loss, Ma’am. Please hold while I transfer you.”
The line went quiet. “Grrrr, I live to be put on hold!” While waiting, she walked to the refrigerator, pulled out the pitcher of tea, and then refilled her glass.
“Mrs. Lowenbacher,” greeted a new voice.
“Yes, that’s my name. How many times do I have to tell you people to bill my deceased mother’s insurance company? This harassment–”
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Lowenbacher, but this is not the billing department. I’m Jenna Kawalski, supervisor of nursing in the trauma unit here at the hospital. Is Dirk Jonathan Lownebacher your husband?”
Mandy’s racing heart sank to the floor. Her palms went clammy, her head spun, so she reached for a bar stool and sat down. “Y . . . yes, Dirk is my husband.”
“I’m terribly sorry, but we tried to call you earlier. Mr. Lownbacher has been shot.”
“Ohhhhh,” Mandy cried into the phone, tears running down her cheeks, “oh, noooo!”
“Please, Ma’am, you must pull yourself together. When your husband is lucid, he keeps repeating, your name. How quickly can you get here?”
She couldn’t be sure if she thought it, or actually said she was on the way, but Mandy tossed the phone into her purse, grabbed her car keys, and hurried to her car. She started to back out of the driveway, but came to a screeching halt at the curb lest she run over Carl Deevers walking his dog. He was Dirk’s best friend, and just lived down the street. She killed the engine and pounded her fists on the steering wheel. “No! No!”
“Mandy, what the hell is going on?” Carl asked, and then commanded his Irish setter, Bodacious, “Stay!”
The story rolled out in sobs as she snuffled, and then reached for a tissue from her purse.
“Don’t you move! You’re in no shape to drive!”
She didn’t argue; just remained frozen to the seat.
While hustling Bodacious to the Lowenbachers’ fenced backyard, he texted his son to come take the dog home, ASAP, and then ran back to the car. “Move over!” Carl got behind the wheel and sped off to the hospital. “I’ll drop you at the front door of the trauma center, park the car, and then find you inside.”
All she could do was nod. As soon as Carl stopped, she flew out of the car, though the doors, and ran to the desk. Although, two nurses conversed, she interrupted, “Dirk Lowenbacher,” she said out of breath, “please, I need to see him!”
A voice called her from behind, “Are you, Mrs. Lownebacher?”
Mandy spun around to face another nurse. “Yes! Please, take me to him, now!”
“I’m afraid your husband’s condition worsened. He was taken into emergency surg –”
“Shot! Who--where--what?” Nothing seemed real, as she stood rooted to the floor--her body felt suspended in the air, as if she were looking down on the scene.
“Dr. Alejandro is performing exploratory surgery to find the extent of your husband’s injuries.”
Mandy felt ill as one hand flew to her mouth, the other to her stomach.
“Oh, dear me!” Nurse Kawalksi said, as she and Nurse Carlow caught Mandy before she fainted. They helped her to a chair in the waiting room. Comfortable mauve couches, and blue overstuffed chairs filled the room, with a TV mounted in the corner, tuned to local news.
An aide brought a glass of water, a wet, cold compress, and then applied it to her neck until she began to feel better.
“Mandy, what’s happened to Dirk?” Carl asked when he walked onto the scene.
After Mandy gave permission to speak freely to Carl, Nurse Carlow explained Dirk’s condition.
Meanwhile, after the initial shock, Mandy realized, hysteria would not help. She needed to deal with reality. She sat up straight, and then cleared her throat. “Nurse Kawalski, do you know what happened?”
“Facts are sketchy, but we’re told a disgruntled client got angry with one of the attorneys at the law firm and went on a shooting spree, killing one partner, and then shot your husband before killing himself.”
“I feel numb,” Mandy said. “Where was my husband shot?”
“The abdominal cavity, I’m afraid. Oh, by the way, Mrs. Lowenbacher, this may mean something to you. Your husband kept referencing, ‘Will it be enough to last?'”
A sob escaped Mandy, and all she could do was nod. Carl sat beside her and took her hand in support.
Now that you have someone with you, Nurse Carlow and I must get back the nurses’ station. I promise, just as soon as I hear anything, I’ll update you, Mrs. Lowenbacher.”
The nurses took her leave.
^ ^ ^ ^ ^
Two hours later, Nurse Kawalski came into the waiting room and gave them a tentative two to three more hours more estimate on surgery, and explained the removal of Dirk’s spleen, and one kidney.
While Carl paced, Mandy sat huddled in the corner of a couch ... waiting. After a while, Carl sat at the end of the couch, leaned his elbows on his knees, and dangled his hands between his legs. “Remember that summer you and Dirk, me and Tammy went to that cabin in the Smokies?”
Mandy grinned through puffy eyes. “Yeah, it was a couple of months before Tammy gave birth to Dylan. She was big as a barn.”
Carl chuckled. “Well, that didn’t stop her from stepping on that damn ant hill, with you right behind her. Before Dirk and I could figure out what happened, you both had your pants down swatting ants, and squealing at each other to hurry up and get the little fudgers.”
Mandy couldn’t hold back her laughter. “Fat lot of good it did us. It took you guys to take off your shirts and rub our legs down with them, before we finally got rid of the little fudgers.”
Carl went quiet.
“You still miss her terribly, don’t you?
His voice cracked, “Yeah. Two years, three months, two weeks ago the cancer got her.”
Without saying a word, Mandy got up and rubbed his neck and shoulders. “She loved you so much. She used to tell me, ‘Mandy, if I lost Carl, I would never want another, because he fills up all my empty spaces with love.’”
He hung his head and cleared his throat. “I remember her telling me that not long after we were married. I told her I’d better stick around, then, because I didn’t want her to turn into the wicked witch of the west from Oz.”
“Mrs. Lownbacher,” Nurse Zawalski said.
Mandy and Carl jumped to their feet when they saw the nurse and a doctor in scrubs. “What? My husband, he’ll be okay, right?”
Carl, then Mandy shook the offered hand during introductions. “Hello, I’m Dr. Alejandro. I’m afraid it will be touch-and-go for the next few days, Mrs. Lowenbacher. There was extensive damage outside of removing your husband’s spleen and kidney. I’m sorry I can’t offer more. Nurse Zawalski will take you in to see him soon.
^ ^ ^ ^ ^
In the week since the shooting, Mandy had leaned a lot on Carl. This afternoon, however, not wanting to take advantage of a lifelong friendship, she insisted he take some time away from the hospital.
The nurses took some readings on Dirk’s monitor, checked his bandages, and then quietly left the room.
Mandy sat on a stool next to Dirk’s bed, holding his hand. Occasionally whispering kisses over his forehead, “I can’t breathe without you.”
His eyes fluttered, and he groaned.
The sound made Mandy jump to her feet. She smoothed his hair back and kissed his lips. “I’m right here, baby.”
When he opened his eyes, a tear fell onto the sheet, “is ... it ... later?”
She wiped tears of joy from her face with one hand, while holding his hand. “What if I’m teasing?”
He tried to smile as he squeezed her hand. All of sudden Dirk began to gasp for air. Monitors began to beep, bringing two nurses into the room.
While the doctors and nurses tried to stabilize Dirk, Carl arrived. When the doctor told them things could go either way, Carl stood on one side of the bed, Mandy on the other, holding Dirk’s hand.
He gave Carl a pleading look. “Not ... make it, buddy. Take ... care ... my ... world.”
“Stop that kind of talk, you asshole. Always the dramatics since we were kids.”
“Yeah, now who’s teasing?” Mandy tried to joke through her tears.
“Kiss ...” Dirk said, blinking back more tears.
She bent to kiss him on the lips. They were cold. A chill ran through her body, but she tried to maintain.
“M & M ... will ... it be ... enough to ... last?”
“Only, until we meet later, baby,”
Dirk’s eyes closed as he breathed a couple puffs of air. Monitors began to beep as his lifeline ceased.
Carl was there to catch Mandy before she collapsed.
^ ^ ^
Tuesday afternoon, June 10, 2014, at four-o’clock p.m., Dirk Jonathon Lowenbacher left this world, all because one distraught man for whatever reasons took his anger out on him and another innocent colleague for his own selfish agenda.
Dirk would never see or hold his little girl that Mandy was going tell him about that evening over a romantic dinner. Indeed, there wasn’t enough time. Their later would never come. And for all of Mandy’s tomorrows on the horizon, there would be no more teasing. No ... it wasn't enough to last.
^ ^ ^ ^ ^
= Thoughts to ponder =
When, how do we stop the madness of people, who, because they believe life has dealt them a raw deal, or for whatever reason, keep them from murdering innocents, before turning their weapon on themselves?
Have we, as a society, given reign to folks because we have pampered, not disciplined, placated, instead of teaching there is consequences for wrongdoing?
When did God’s commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ become unimportant, so easy to ignore?
^ ^ ^ ^ ^
I hope this story serves to remind us – don’t forget to thank God for the love he has blessed us with. Hold those we love a little tighter.And, don’t forget to say ‘I love you,’ more often.