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 Stories/Books 

                                                           STUDIO

                                  In the winter of her life
                                  She stands alone in the cold
                                  Filled with old memories and forgotten dreams
                                  Structure weakened 
                                  Worn by time and storm
                                  A new Dream slips in and 
                                  warms her heart
                                  Rebirth of the soul of creation
                                  The muse of Spring will come after all.

                                                                          Jeanne

Chapter 1  -  Becoming What You Are

The empty page stared back at him, the glaring whiteness daring him to type the first word. It was a long contest but finally his fingers pressed determinedly on the waiting keys.

From the outside it appeared that the words flowed in a magic dance between his brain, the keyboard and the first page of the imaginary file. It would be his forth try to tell a story that people might read. And, that he felt needed to be written. In the long and often tortuous journey that was just beginning, a glimmer of hope peered through the vail of doubt that always accompanied this kind of writing.

He had trained for many years to arrive at this juncture in his life. So much had been learned from masters of many disciplines. But mostly it had been his own self reflection, and the tenaciousness of a man weary of being haunted by his past, weary of the disillusionment, and weary of the squandering of the gifts he had been born with.

Mistake after mistake, failure after failure, dream after dream was shrouded in the dust of his life. His only salvation was this effort and the awareness that at least now he was no longer that man. But was this enough? Was it enough to live an unremarkable life? Was it enough to feel the power of the transformation while this new journey became the final assent into the unknown?

********

It was easy to peer into other people=s lives. It was easy to see behind the curtain, the mask hiding nothing. This was not always so. As he stared through the window at the barren trees and the brown grass, and the darkened patches of the last of the winter snow, a familiar cold feeling seeped through the window into every muscle and bone of his body. Everything he had learned and practiced over these last few years wandered through his mind. His life unfolded, filling every space, every nerve with his experiences and decisions, his own pain and the pain of all the others.

Though it would pass as easily as it had arrived, the thoughts of a redo lingered in the background. A redo to undo, to prevent all of the disasters and all of the pain his family went through, to live differently, and to love differently, to fix it all.

"If you hunger for the chance to do it all over and could, who would you be right now? If you redo your past, your life as you know it leaves this world forever. Do now what you so desperately wished you could have done before. Let your new life draw from your old life. Let your past become history, a footnote. This time now is all you have." (From the Healing Arts of the Shaman, 1831)

For years, at any moment, all of the hurts and injuries of his past would burst painfully in his mind. The future not much better than the past as his life unfolded with imaginary fears and anger and a bleak ignorance of how to see it all differently, how to let go. He could not understand and so the future became the present, not much different than yesterday.

Before it was even possible he promised himself he would find a way, to feel differently, to live differently. This was not the life he dreamed, it was not supposed to be like this.

Time was long past when he ground his teeth at night thirsting for revenge, to get even, to inflict pain on those who deserved it. These times were war, a war raged on the battlefield of his own mind touching no one but himself or so he thought at the time. This was a war, a war he would win, but no war even for the victorious is without serious cost. His life had been a self fulfilling prophecy and he had no one to blame but himself.

The absurdity of it all brought a slight smile up from the depths to rest comfortably on his lips. Letting go was much more difficult than he could ever have imagined. The simple words, "You must see the gift to receive the gift" laid dormant for years. They were finally the engine of his transformation. A work in progress, but a transformation none the less. (From the Healing Arts of the Shaman - 1831)

******

Jim Barton patiently waited for the feelings to come and go. Quieting his mind had become a habit. Minute by minute he allowed all that flowed through him to pass without resistance. The power of his memories that for so many years had trapped him in anger and confusion, sometimes desperation, and often an unending dull ache, was now just a old movie, a sometimes interesting piece of his history. It had taken years for his memories to become detached from the present. It had taken years to allow the remembering without the emotional pain of his own mistakes and the mistakes of others demanding a response.

"All who have ever lived tread carelessly on this earth until the full impact of their lives is exposed, creating a window of opportunity for compassionate transformation of their very soul".@ (from the healing arts of the Shaman, 1831)

 

The Early Years

Before he even knew her, before he announced his presence in this world, his mother, a pale freckled beautiful woman, her long red hair drenched with sweat, pushed heroically. Her obscenities and screams of pain filled the room. The doctor and nurses worked furiously to assist. Something was wrong.

For minutes the baby=s life or death hinged on the speed of the doctor as he widened the exit and pulled the baby free from the strangling umbilical cord. For a dreaded few seconds there was no sound. But then his welcome cry brought a short lived smile to everyone in the room. His skin was yellow and there was a gurgle of breath, he needed help immediately.

Her incision healed quickly and her figure slowly returned to normal. She worked hard to get back to her former self. The baby was home now and a voracious feeder. He gorged himself on the plentiful milk flowing freely from ample breasts.

The fighting did not start until she physically healed. It did not stop until their divorce five years later. The only memory still with him was the image of himself holding on as his father tried to leave. His weak efforts and whimper were drowned out by the screaming anger of the two most important people in his life. When the door finally closed with a window shattering slam he sat very still and watched his mother streaming tears, her angry swearing, her contorted face only partially covered by trembling hands. This was the beginning. It would not end for fifty three years.

Later in his life he would learn the reasons. One of them was another woman during the pregnancy, another was her lover in response, and yet the real problem between them and the scars of their tumultuous relationship he would not understand until many years passed. Many, many years. And so his new life began with a saddened and sometimes bitter mother and a sister who filled their lives with troubling behavior time and time again.

Years Passing

As he lie there very still his mother gently pulled a baking soda soaked shirt over this head. AI know this is going to itch but try not to scratch the sores, Mommy has to go to work but Gramma or Grandpa will check in on you, Ok?". AI=ll be ok mom, will they make some chocolate milk for me?" " I=m sure they will, but for now I want you to stay covered up and try to rest and sleep. I have to go, love you."

Many days passed, then many weeks, and then six months. His mother asked for a temporary leave of absence. Her employer promised her she would have a job when her son got well. Grandpa payed the bills. He often helped out. Later Jim would understand just how much he helped out.

For some reason no one completely understood, young Jim Barton took childhood illness with a quiet stoicism. One right after another he got measles, chicken pox, mumps, whooping cough, and finally pneumonia. For this when he went back to school he had to repeat first Grade. But from then on he got stronger and stronger. The only physical problem was a maddening itch all over his body whenever he took a bath, and the flu, sometimes strep throat every winter. The itch would last up to 30 or forty minutes and then go away. It took a while but he learned to accept the mind altering itch without scratching. It was a proud moment in his life when he no longer dreaded the bath but looked forward to the challenge. This did not stop until his late twenties. He was twenty eight when he changed his diet. The yearly bouts with winter flu and/or strep throat and/or bronchitis and/or pneumonia lasted for many more years. It did not help that he had taken up smoking while in the military.

The Play Room

The room was filled with toys, stuffed animals, a small chair and a table, drawing and coloring supplies and big mirror on the wall. He could see himself from anywhere in the room. His mother told him to play while she visited one of the professors. " Have fun", she said ,A I=ll be back in a little while."@

Without noticing the time passing little Jim drew pictures, stacked the wooden blocks into houses, triangles and a bridge over running water. Of course the water was only in his imagination. For a while he sat quietly looking at all of the stuff he could play with when he spotted one of those paper pop guns. The gun was made of metal with a small roll of paper in the handle. Every time he pulled the trigger the gun would make a loud popping sound. Until he ran out of paper he shot everything in the room. Towards the end of the roll he shot his image in the mirror until the gun was empty. With a tired sigh he dropped the gun and turned his back to the mirror. In the far left corner of the room he spotted a big fluffy dog. His eyes were closing as he nestled himself comfortably into the dog's belly.

Behind the big mirror the professor nodded to his mother as though he had an answer for her sons behavior. AI would like to test him",@ he said with a gentle concerned look. Bring him back next week and I will set up a series of tests for measurement of his IQ and Emotional Maturity. And don't worry I believe I understand his behavior, but the tests will have to confirm my diagnosis."@

******

 

Weeks later the tall stately redhead with the grace of a model and sensuous fluid motions of a dancer glided across the room of the Director of psychiatric research at the University. The professor peered over his glasses at this beautiful woman, noting in the back of his mind the rapid change in demeanor from her stunning entrance to the now nervous clasping of her hands as she sat down.

"Can you tell me again why you brought your son to us?"

Jim's mother stared at the professor. The question irritated her for the simple reason he knew exactly why she brought her son to him. But with a deep breath she responded "he is not affectionate, he appears slow, for a child of his age he is very withdrawn, he shows no emotion but anger once in a while."

Knowing he had read her impatience and simply because he was helping her as a favor, Jim's mother relented, "I am worried, I have to work, and it bothers me to see him like this. I know his sister picks on him all of the time, he doesn't even fight back. Can you tell me anything that would help?"

"What makes you believe he is slow? I have reviewed his school records and I see nothing that would raise an alarm?"

As though they were in a battle of wills Jim's mother took the offence. "Look I consider myself to be a good mother, I also believe I am smarter than most people give me credit for. But, unless I am deranged, I look at my son and see a lone, cold, unresponsive nine year old that acts like a seven year old."

 

"And I don't know how to handle him." Having said that, her beginning anger wilted and her impatience left her. She allowed her worry and her fear to show.

"In a moment I will tell you what we have found, but first I would like to ask you an important question. "What do you see when you look at your son? Do you see a small boy who happens to be your son, do you see your child in trouble, or do you see his father?"

The invasion into her private world caught her off guard. She blurted out the only response she could, "What are you saying, I love my son"

Leaning forward with his chin resting comfortably on curled hands the professor took a kinder approach but continued on the same path. "I believe you do, but the question still remains, how do you look at your son?"

Flustered by now Jim's mother began to say something, stopped, and tried to say something again. Her mind was chaotic, trying not to admit to herself the truth.

"Let me try to help you. While this is not a therapy session I want you to consider something. How you view your son has a direct impact on his responsiveness to you. If you see his father in him, he will know it. Your anger and bitterness toward his father is clear for him to see. The only problem is he cannot see that he is not the target of your disappointment and bitterness."

"So what did the tests show? Anything?"

"He has an IQ of 108, and, he has the emotional maturity of a seven year old."

The professor watched as the shock of confirmation of her fears rapidly overcame her confident appearance. She visibly slumped in the chair, "So he is slow."

The professor could tell that she imagined this as supporting her belief, and in her own mind she was trying to absolve herself of the guilt she had been feeling. "You're just like your father" hung persistently in her head.

"Not so fast, his IQ is average, but we have learned from various studies that emotional trauma and the resulting stifling of emotional growth can and does affect the IQ"

The professor could not help but notice the acceptance and even satisfaction in the woman's face as she quickly processed this information. She was off the hook, her son could grow out of this.

As she stood up she asked one more question "Have I caused this? Can I do anything to help? I can't afford therapy."

The professor knew there was no point in pursuing this. She got the confirmation she needed. He only hoped she would see her part in her son's development as a mother's devotion and not a job.

"Yes you can help, accept him as he is, he is not his father. Therapy would probably help but it is long and expensive. Let me know if he does not improve, but it will take a while."

"Thank you for all you have done. I really appreciate your help. Thank you"

As she left the professor almost guiltily weighed his options. He could take the boy as a project but to be really effective he would have to take the whole family. He also seriously doubted that the whole family would participate, in fact he was sure of it.

                                                           Girls-Sixth Grade

In sixth grade Jim found his first girl friend. Almost as tall as he was with long black hair and a young developing body, Jim finally asked to walk her home after school. It was a short trip, she lived right across from his elementary school. For the next two years they skated, played in the park and a couple of times, when her father sponsored them, they went down to the local ice cream shop. Technically she was not his girlfriend, three other boys competed for her time.

She and her family moved away at the end of seventh grade. One time as they were walking home from middle school the ninth grade bully started picking on him and poking fun at both of them. When he came up behind him and shoved him pretty hard, Jim had enough. Dropping his books Jim ran up to him and started swinging. The fight lasted less than a minute and it is doubtful if Jim ever landed a punch. But his intensity was enough to end the fight and stop further harassment. With some satisfaction another ninth grader challenged the bully and landed more than a couple of punches. His girlfriend, after a short walk, smiled, and asked if he was ok. Her look of respect overshadowed his embarrassment over the fact that he had not landed a single blow.

 

He did not have another girlfriend until the summer after 12th grade. The path his life took from that moment on proved to be nothing like he had ever imagined.

A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing-11th Grade

Jim's mother was frustrated. All weekend Jim had been struggling with an essay he was supposed to have done by Monday. His penmanship was horrible and he only had the first two paragraphs completed.

After standing over his shoulder for at least 20 minutes, his mother grabbed the pencil and started writing. Jim spoke up, just a little afraid, "Its ok mom, I can finish it now".

His mother looked up at him with frustration and a hint of the anger that was rapidly taking control. "Ok, lets see what you can do."

Getting up from the kitchen table, she towered over his shoulder for a moment and then stalked into the living room. Her steps pounded the wooden floor as she left. Jim struggled with his fear as he stared at what his mother had written. Totally lost for the next hour , rewriting what his mother had done, he finally managed to put enough down on paper to satisfy the two page requirement. He quickly slid the paper into his 3 ring binder and tried to go outside.

His mother stood in the doorway, arms crossed. With a stern look she asked if he had finished. "Yes" he said with a hollow confidence, "I was going out for a little bit."

"Can I see what you have written? It was not a question it was a command.

Slowly he walked over to the kitchen table, opened his three ring binder, and timidly handed his mother the results of hours of work.

Reading slowly, commenting once or twice on his atrocious hand writing, she finished and handed the papers back to him. With a pained expression she turned around and walked off without comment.

Relieved, Jim hesitated for a moment and then walked to the back door. As he was about to twist the knob he stopped and did something he would both regret and struggle to overcome for years to come. He walked into the living room and asked his mother if the essay was ok.

The Comeback

Jim had tried out for track and gymnastics as soon as he entered High school. Although he was a practiced runner (he ran or bicycled every place he went), one of the stars of the track team was so fast he did not stand a chance (or so he thought at the time). Jim ran the hundred in 10.8 seconds. The other guy ran it in 9.6 seconds. He also outran Jim in the quarter mile, the mile and the two mile. The shot put and Javelin were equally disheartening. Jim could have stayed on, his time was only 1.2 seconds off in the hundred, but he could not convince himself that he would be able to excel let alone win.

Gymnastics followed quickly. Every day he practiced on the horse, the parallel bars and the rings. He was even fast at the rope climb without using his legs. When it came time for the tryouts two other students did the iron cross and the inverted parallel hang. Although strong he was skinny, lanky and tall. And he could not do the iron cross or the inverted hang. He was bested in all the other forms.

After licking his wounds for a week or too Jim shifted his attention to classroom studies and became really interested in math, chemistry and physics. By 11th grade his grades reflected all of his hard work. Many of the students, mostly those he helped, considered him a brain. Only he believed differently. English was his worst subject. His English teacher even considered failing him but allowed him to advance to the twelfth grade.

It was during the summer after his eleventh year when he made one of the most independent decisions of his life. New York had final exams, they were called the regents exam. In the beginning of the summer, he found a old book, a translation of several of the works of the German Philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

Every night that he could, with a dictionary and notebook by his side, he read, looked up every word he did not understand, wrote his understanding of what he had just read. It took him all summer to finish the book of over 600 pages. All through the fall and into the spring he read book after book after book. With each book he opened the dictionary less and less. With his last book before the final exam, the dictionary lay unopened.

His grades on the regents exams got him a $300 scholarship at the University. But his best victory if you want to call it that was his 97.5 on the English exam. His English teacher could not believe it. It was three sections, grammar, literature, essay. He lost 2.5 points on the essay and aced the other two. His teacher only relented a little bit. "I guess I'll have to give you an overall B", she said with a smile. Jim was so elated he completely missed the satisfaction in her voice.

He stayed on cloud nine until his second semester in college when things started to get a whole lot more difficult.

                                                      The summer after Graduation

Right after graduation Jim started working at Sears Roebuck unloading the trucks and stocking the storeroom. His best friend that he had paled around with since elementary school got the same job only a few days later.

It was a good summer. Fishing on Sunday, sometimes at a small lake 7 miles away, sometimes on the Seneca River, sometimes in the trout streams not far away. Most often he went alone, especially when he had Saturday off, other times he and his friend biked to the lake. The nearby parks supplied all the night crawlers they needed but he kept a few out in the back yard in the worm box he built.

In late July Jim hustled past the perfume and makeup counter on his way to the docks. Glancing over the glass a small pretty smile followed him as he hurried along. Not ten paces further Jim stopped and turned around. The smile now had a light laugh and then turned away. Though he was close to being late, he and his long time friend prided themselves on never clocking in late, Jim rushed back to the counter.

"Hi" he almost shouted. As she glanced back over her shoulder, Jim blurted out his name. "Hi" he said again, "My name is Jim Barton, what's yours?" Looking him up and down she finally relented, "Kathy", she replied softly.

"I'm almost late for work, will you be here tomorrow? I mean what time do you start? What time do you get off?" Jim's face got redder and redder each time the nervous words magically appeared in front of him.

The girl named Kathy was struggling a tiny bit to, "I get off at nine",  she said. Jim put both hands on the glass and pushed himself away. "So do I" and with that Jim turned and raced away taking his red face and his thumping heart with him.

Kathy's mother was very surprised when her daughter arrived at home that night with a tall lanky young man holding her hand. Before they reached the porch the young man let go of her hand , whispered something in her ear and burst into a run as he raced away.

The glowing look on her daughters face as she climbed the stairs told her all she needed to know. Without saying anything she put her arms around her daughter, shook her head as the warning signals filled every corner of her mind and sat down on the porch swing. "Come, sit for a minute" Kathy was still beaming as she sat next to her mother and started to explain. Their talk lasted for an hour before her mother suggested that they could both use some sleep. Kathy jumped up from the swing, ran into the house and straight to the bedroom.

They seemed connected somehow as they both drifted off into the wonderful world of make believe.

Every night that they could, Jim Barton walked Kathy home. Only on Friday night did they sit out on the back porch steps and talk until she was called in by her mother. Their first kiss was everything Jim imagined and more. She was just entering 12th grade and Jim was starting his Freshman year at the University. Jim was blissfully ignorant of the parental concern closing in around them. His friend even mentioned a few times that he hadn'?ft seen much of Jim except at work.

When school started in earnest for both of them they agreed to only see each other on the weekends. Only when he was working hard at the unloading dock or taking a test did the image of Kathy leave him.

His first semester wasn't too bad. The seventeen credit hours coupled with his work schedule and of course Kathy however, proved to be too much for him. At the end of the second semester his dismay over his grades began to overwhelm him. The only bright spot was Kathy's prom night.

She wore a chartreuse strapless gown that flowed over her, accentuating ever curve that he only dreamed of seeing let alone touching. His dancing impressed her. The dance lessons his mother made him take so many years ago, under duress of course, proved their worth. Kathy smiled with pleasure all night. She had a handsome college man that could dance, that adored her, who she showed off to all of her classmates.

The romantic spell that filled both of them to overflowing stayed with them all evening. As they entered her mother's two bedroom apartment at one in the morning, Kathy rushed into her mother's bedroom. Her mother, waiting and reading, put down the book as Kathy, beaming, held out her hand. To her credit she kept her opinions to herself and gave her daughter a big hug.

Kathy's parents had gotten a divorce. Jim did not know the reasons, only that Kathy's mother moved out of the house and into this apartment last December. Kathy and Jim spent many evenings talking about their parents, their own feelings, and what future they might have together. One thing for sure, Jim had to finish college.

When Kathy came out of the bedroom Jim jumped to his feet and wrapped his arms around her. Only after a long kiss did they both sit down and hold each other. Jim asked the most obvious question, "So, can I assume we are not in the dog house? I can start running right now if you give me the word". Kathy laughed and punched his shoulder, "She just asked me if this was a wise thing to do at my age. And I assured her you would finish college before we got married."

After a long pause Kathy looked him straight in eyes, and whispered in his ear, "I am not wearing anything under this dress". Jim reached around and felt the half drawn zipper. He could feel Kathy's heart pounding as he kissed her, his own filling every part of him.

They stayed that way what seemed like forever, until Jim began to think. He was really struggling in school, he loved this girl with all his soul, and the thought of her getting pregnant cleared his mind of the passion he now felt. That night though they parted with a long kiss, Jim had a nagging feeling that he had committed a gigantic mistake, a mistake he could never repair.

*******

It was July 4th weekend. They rested comfortably on a large beach towel on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Kathy jumped up and ran to the water, waving for him to follow. Reluctantly he rose and raced after her. Swimming was not his best skill. She was about 50 feet ahead of him when he entered the water. Walking out to just above his waist he shouted to her come back. The wave almost pushed him backwards.

For a horrible second she disappeared. He leaped forward as she came back up and shouted, fear very real in her voice, "I'm caught in the undertow".

Without thinking Jim stretched his long lanky body out flat and with powerful strokes was at her side before he even knew what he had done.

Holding her up as the waves pounded them he shouted " Lay flat on your back when I push you up and stay on the surface, kick with all you got". With that he heaved her toward the beach. For a second he hesitated watching her ride the waves back to the beach. Then he turned and attempted the same maneuver, only he mistimed it and a wave slammed into his face filling his mouth with water. Choking and struggling to flatten himself he went under a couple of times. Struggling to breathe, flailing on the surface, he managed to make his way toward the beach. The next thing he knew he was watching his own struggle from above. The fear was gone, and he felt nothing, not even his own failed attempts to breath. He could see a large throng of people standing at the water's edge. The last thing he was aware of was a big man walking toward him.

 

The big man reached down and picked him up out of the water and carried him to the beach. The water was only waist high. The next thing he knew he was throwing up lots of water, gulping in air as his lungs and stomach emptied. Finally, on hands and knees, he was able to breath normally. Kathy stood beside him, her hand on his back. The big man standing next to her, "I couldn't go out there to get you," he said apologetically, "the undertow is too strong here" "What were you two thinking, this is the worst part of the beach, everyone knows this!"

Jim got to his feet, turned, and shook the big mans hand, "Thanks, I would have drowned if you hadn't come and carried me out. Thank you." As he turned to Kathy to suggest they go home, he barely noticed the disappointed look on her face. She appeared embarrassed. The trip home was quiet, it was not even filled with the close call they both had just experienced. Only in the weeks that followed did he become aware of a cooling off. A cooling off that he felt was not deserved. After all he did swim out to get her didn't he?"

********

The third semester, his sophomore year, began poorly. He should have consulted with the dean to change his major before it was too late. He did not and tried to struggle through. By December he was behind in almost everything. He had gotten a "D" in his second semester calculus. This years calculus was worse, he just did not get it. Physics, Chemistry and Zoology were his only non failing classes. He was way behind in his artwork and the design project. And the English professor had just given him an "F" and an "A" on an important midterm paper. The "A" was for an impressive analysis of a poets work, the "F" was for failure to understand the assignment, and thus failure to complete the assignment. The "F" held despite his attempts to justify his interpretation of the Professors instructions.

Jim dropped out of college just before Christmas vacation. It was suggested that if he dropped out he could come back in good standing at another time when he was ready. Neither his mother nor Kathy, nor Kathy's mother greeted the news with sympathy nor kindness. He had failed to live up to his promise. There was no way around it.

He was able to begin work full time at Sears Roebuck. Kathy stayed with him but his mother and her mother began interfering. By May Sears let him go and although Kathy was still seeing him, all talk of marriage ended. His Mother suggested very strongly that he find a way to move out. He was given two months. He enlisted in late May and left for basic training June 5th. The long road to redeem himself began.

 

 

Military Service

The Dear John letter arrived the weekend before he was to start a special electronics school to maintain the equipment used for intercepting airwave messages, electronic eavesdropping. Crushed and panicky he ask the base commander for the week off to go home. With a disgusted tone the Base Commander relented but warned him to be back by 6 O'clock the following Sunday. "Awol was not something he wanted to experience," the Base Commander warned, "nor my wrath if you disappoint me," he growled.

Everyone, his mother, his long time friend, Kathy and Kathy's mother greeted him with anxiety and frustration. Why was he here? What did he hope to accomplish?

Jim finally got Kathy to see him. They met after work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It took every ounce of courage and restraint to appear calm and composed. Inside he was bleeding every emotion that was possible under the circumstances. His days and nights were filled with dread with only a glimmer of hope when Kathy told him she noticed a big difference in his behavior. He no longer appeared clingy. They even kissed Wednesday which sent his mind reeling with the possibilities.

The devastating blow came at 6:30 Thursday evening when he knocked on their apartment door. She let him in and sat down on the small couch, patting the space next to her. After a long pause he got the worst compliment he had ever received. Four years was a long time and though she still had feelings for him and was happy that he got such a good school, four years was too long. He started to defend himself and almost said out loud that they had promised to wait until he graduated college but the look on her face filled with compassion over the pain she knew he was feeling shut him up. He knew deep down that she had already replaced him in her mind.

With a long and probably hurt look he kissed her on the cheek and left. Not even looking back as the door to all the feelings of love and hope closed firmly behind him.

He was back on the base early Saturday morning. Going through the motions for the next six months until he accepted his assignment for a small base in Northern Pakistan.

 

Chapter 2 - The Grandson

Julia glanced up as Jim Barton quietly entered the conference room and took a position opposite her on the long table. For a moment she held his gaze and felt the familiar tug inside. Part of her wanted to reach out and sooth the tiredness, another part was more mischievous. "Good morning Jim, we missed you. Good trip?"

Jim Barton looked into a pair of soft brown eyes. Today she had on a wrap around white dress with black accent on the lapels. It was difficult to not stare as she shifted position. The inner top button had come loose. Her white lace bra displayed a generous tan line. She smiled up at him.

For a bare moment he turned on a worn out fantasy tape and let it play out a few frames. It was enough. Julia let her eyes rove over him, stop, and then stare directly into his eyes as she straightened and adjusted her dress. "Long night?"

"Long week," Jim Barton glanced at the others as he pulled out a deep maroon leather conference chair. The ache seeped out of him as he leaned back to relish the comfort. His tone when he finally spoke erased the amused expressions of the other two men at the table. He leaned forward, "Okay let me first give you the bad news."

"Mike," Jim's finger stabbed at the aerial photograph, "I want you to immediately prepare this site."

Mike nodded, "We moved the clearing crew in this weekend."

"Sam?"

"Permits in place. Surveys complete." It was all he could do to keep a straight face.

Jim studied the three of them. It wasn't a rebuke. Something interesting had just happened that he wanted to savor.

"Well, well." Jim leaned back and steepled his fingers resting his head against the back of the chair. "I was going to say I want this project to be at full throttle in two weeks. We have two years from today, and it's not much time." Jim tried to glare, "What would you have done if I had been unsuccessful?"

They all shrugged, almost in synchronization. Julia crossed her arms defensively, ignoring the question, "What's the good news?"

Jim noted her defensiveness and relented, "Our funding will allow us full latitude in the design and implementation of the project. We are also, as of today, a privately held corporation with loose ties to each of our parents."

Julia unfolded her arms, "Nice going." He had isolated them from the bureaucracy of their respective sponsors, and, he had increased their funding. Of course it would be a short honeymoon. She was well aware of the people and personalities involved.

"Thanks but save the applause. We're playing for very high stakes. I recruited each of you because you are the best. Your first joint decision seems to bear that out. Or did one of you over power the others?" Neither of them responded. Jim looked deep into deadpan. They were quite pleased with themselves.

"Alright, I'll give you this one, you've given us a head start. But here's the drill anyway. No leaks, no mistakes, and if something goes wrong we all know it immediately. I mean no secrets. We're a team. We fix our own problems together. There are no scapegoats. If the project fails, we all fail (of course he didn't believe that, he was the one who wouldn't get another chance). The thought made him involuntarily shudder.

"Cold?"

Jim glanced at Mike, "Just tired."

"We won't get a second chance. From here on in carry your phone everywhere. Now, one more time, who are we, what do we represent?" No one spoke up. Jim let the silence hold. In a while they'd be living together 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This was no time to get pushy.

Julia's light laugh broke the drama, "I represent a private endowment. Grants have been provided for special individuals to assist us in testing a theory of our sponsor. I.E. Can a small group of dedicated people create a significant change in the value structure and direction of our society. This includes but is not limited to a transforming vision of a new world view, and, it's practical ramifications. I.E. the continuation of our species. We will link spiritual and intellectual leaders throughout the world. This is a unifying project of immense scope and is called "The Noble Vision".

 

Sam barely let her finish, "Our goal is to establish proven methods for influencing political, spiritual, and economic behavior beyond the lobby and beyond rhetoric and beyond violence. Whether others believe it or not there is a real revolution brewing, a revolution of ideas, beliefs, spirituality, philosophy, and basic human values, with Science at it's core. Our goal is to understand it and to increase the opportunity for quality of life changes without the devastation of serious conflict. The world will move on no matter what we do. But we are deeply interested in the quality of life of future generations, and we intend to do something about it."

"We are building a Center of Enrichment. The quality of our goals will be reflected in our work place." Mike's amused grin brought a smile from each of them. "We will fall in love with this place."

Jim Barton slapped the table with both hands and stood up. All of the tiredness he had displayed earlier was gone. It was a good beginning. "That's it. The prototypes will be ready in 4 months. Your personal lives must be resolved by then. Mike, how soon can we move in?"

"I'd recommend we wait until the concrete's dry."

Jim didn't respond, he just waited. He found that silence was an effective prompting tool.

"Four months should be enough. Each of our subs gets a bonus for being on time, and docked for screwing up. We'll make it. The equipment rooms will be finished first with separate services. You can install as soon as they are ready."

"Thanks, I'm tired and I'm going to bed." To each of them he added, "Thank you again. We will make a difference. And please, not even to your most trusted friend or family member are you to even hint at the technology we are implementing. We will complete our mission, but only in absolute secrecy."

The call was waiting for him when he reached the hotel room.

The smooth voice at the other end touched a nerve. "Jim, I wanted to give you my personal congratulations. I believe we have chosen well. Does everyone accept our goals?"

"Already looking for weak spots," he thought.

Jim's voice had a rough edge to it, it was a little early to start touching nerves, "This team is the best Mr. Wharton."

"Yes, yes, I agree, but of course you must be tired. Get some rest. I'll be in touch."

After the click Jim sat there with the phone in his hand for several seconds. This was only the first call of many and he'd already screwed up. You don't use that tone with one of the principal players, subtle though it was. He would have to be more careful. Gently cradling the phone, he stood up, and removed his clothes, turned off the air conditioning and lay back down. His mind was a whirlwind of to do's, what if's, schedules and Julia. This went on for some time. Letting go was a nightly effort. Jim finally started to concentrate on his heartbeat, breathing, and the sensation of sinking deep into the mattress. At some point Julia and the world outside slipped away.

* * * *

Mike and Sam studied the architectural specifications. They were inside the General Contractor's trailer where it was cooler but not cool enough. Both of them were sweating in the August Texas heat.

Mike left the trailer. The noise, muffled slightly in the trailer, became a symphony of screaming chain saws, roaring dozers, grinding gear boxes, and shouting men. The distraught land could do nothing but rise up in clouds of angry dry hot dirt. Fungus, pollen and every other imaginable air born irritant assaulted his nose and lungs. Glancing over the chaotic scene with a practiced eye Mike riveted his attention on a dozer that carelessly clipped the staked perimeter of a marked tree. There were forty to be saved. In an instant fit of rage he raced over the broken earth toward the offending machine.

Out of breath he shouted at the operator. "HEY YOU, shut her down," The man on top looked down and then lowered the giant blade for another pass. "I SAID SHUT HER DOWN!" The man let the engine idle and turned to face Mike. His immediate assessment was that he was dealing with a nut case. "Yeh, what's up?"

Mike pointed stiffly at the live oak, "THAT MARKED TREE AND ALL LIKE IT ARE NOT TO BE TOUCHED. IS THAT YOUR INSTRUCTIONS?"

The man was hot and dirty and had a temper of his own, but he did good work and was proud of his skill. He almost jumped down and barked into this idiot's face but something stopped him. It wasn't size or even Mike's obvious fury, but something stopped him. He looked over at the tree and noticed the ring of stakes had been smashed flat. Without saying a word he jumped down with a small sledge hammer in his hand and proceeded to reset the stakes.

Mike stood there and watched, his anger fading. The man finished, climbed up onto the dozer and shouted back down, "OKAY?"

Mike shook his head and almost laughed. Instead he waved him on with a nod, "Okay," and then trudged on back to the trailer. The word would get around to the crews. He would make sure the site supervisors understood. At the next encounter he would create an example.

Sam had braved the heat and dust when he saw Mike take off across the trampled earth. He lit a cigarette and smoked half of it before Mike, more careful on his return, strode victoriously up to him. "Feel Better?" Mike smiled, "Yeh, I do. Got to keep on top of things." Sam laughed, "I think we're safe."

* * * *

Julia read and reread the personal profiles of each recipient of a grant. She worried the cap of her pen between sparkling white even teeth as she studied her notes. Twelve young men and women, 6 taking time off from the pursuit of advanced degrees, 3 completing current government grants within the next month, 3 recruited from research labs in private industry. The Grants were substantial.

It was Julia's job to manage them, educate them, mother them, and make sure that each one of them was ready when the time came. Four months of training, two months of experimentation, four months of creativity, ten more months of intense followup. Almost a year and a half of living in close quarters with no break and very long hours would exact it's toll. They were the seeds of the future and Julia began to feel the weight of her responsibility. This would be the moment of truth for all of them.

Impulsively Julia reached for the phone. Settling her personal life rose suddenly to the surface. She had met Dan six months ago. Would he wait for her? Did she want him too?

"Dan William's office, may I tell him who's calling?" Clara had a perfect phone voice, always light, always helpful sounding even when she was having a bad day.

"Hi Clara, this is Julia, is he in?"

"Sure, he just finished with a client. I'll ring you through." "Dan, it's Julia." Clara paused just long enough to allow him to instruct her. "Put her through."

"Dan?"

"Hi Julia. This is a pleasant surprise."

"Got a free minute?"

"Of course, just a sec." Dan let her hear his instructions to Clara over the intercom, "Clara, when my next appointment arrives buzz me first will you? Give me at least five minutes."

"So, what's my favorite person got on her mind?" He sounded perfectly relaxed, as though he had all the time in the world.

"How about dinner tonight, Italian?"

"My last appointment is at six. How about 8:00 at Morino's?"

"Thanks."

Dan hesitated, maybe he was reading too much into her tone, "Anything special you want to talk about?"

It was Julia's turn to hesitate, just for a moment, "We'll talk over dinner. Nothing critical. See you then."

"Good, I've missed you. I'll pick you up a little after seven."

"I've missed you too, see you."

Dan felt the reluctance as she hung up. He flagged a 'pay attention' sign in the back of his mind just as Clara buzzed him. "Donald Parker..." His door opened and was gently shut. Donald casually walked over and made himself comfortable in the guest chair. His eyes never left Dan's.

There was not an ounce of character in Donald's voice, "Our sources indicated that the project is a go. We just wanted to clarify the role we want you to play."

"I'm listening," Dan matched Donald's tone, or lack of it.

Donald stood up and took a step forward. He wasn't exceptionally tall. His dark blue suit cost a few hundred dollars but it wasn't the best. His hair was straight and neatly trimmed. Nothing stood out except his eyes, Dan looked into them and saw nothing, felt nothing. "This man has no conscience," he thought.

Donald leaned on the desk, "It is very important that we track the progress of the project. We are not interested in stopping or altering the outcome. We aren't even going to steal anything." Donald sat back down and stared at his hands, "Your relationship with the woman is not as close as we were led to believe. How are you progressing?"

Dan swivelled his chair and glanced out the window. When he turned back he allowed a hint of anger to seep into his voice.

"I agreed to monitor the project. My relationship with the woman is my affair."

Donald raised his hands in a gesture of peace, "Please don't take offense. The information is important. Others watch the project, and they will not be as tolerant or patient. Much is at stake here that you know nothing of."

"What is at stake?"

Donald's face hardened, "You received assistance from us. This is a favor we ask in return. It would be very prudent of you to perform the favor and maintain your ignorance." Rising smoothly Donald straightened his suit and adjusted his tie. "I'll be in touch."

As abruptly as he entered, he left. Dan sucked in a deep breath. Clara opened the door with a slightly worried look, "Mr. Gavin is here, may I send him in?" It sounded like a real question. Dan forced a relaxed smile, "Yes, thank you. Send him right in."

* * * *

Jim rolled over and sat on the side of the bed. He tried to remember what it was he had to do. With one hand on the edge of the bed he tried to stand up. A dizzy spell almost toppled him back but he managed to stay upright. His unsettled stomach turned over as he stumbled for the bathroom. He stepped into the tub and turned on the shower. The cold water made him jerk away and he almost ripped down the shower curtain. Forcing himself forward, he leaned down and adjusted the hot and cold. First the hot water gradually turned up until he could barely stand it for one to two minutes, then the cold, the hot water turned off. Repeat until the tiredness left his eyes and he was able to think clearly.

Reluctantly Jim turned off the hot water. Behind the fogged mirror his eyes would be bloodshot so he didn't bother cleaning it.

It didn't take him long to dry and dress, and remember what he had to do. There was time. He needed to eat, and check out of the hotel.

***********************

Dan Williams peered over gold rimmed bi-focal as he placed the menu off to the side. "So, have I told you how incredibly beautiful you are."

Julia looked down at her menu, the compliment should have triggered a response other than what she was feeling. Looking up into his eyes she laughed lightly, "This is only the third time, once at the hotel, once in the car on the way over here."

"Have you decided, or do you need more time?"

Julia sighed, the dual message almost provoked her. "I think dinner should be a leisure experience, lets start with a nice red wine and my favorite appetizer."

"You didn't answer my question."

"I would like sliced tomatoes, very thin slices of mozzarella, with fresh ground pepper, fresh basil and only a sprinkle of olive oil for starters. What are you having?"

Dan shrugged and looked for the waiter, accepting the diversion, "Ah, Antonio, we're ready to order."

"Would you like for me to tell you about our specials tonight? Of course not, a wine perhaps?"

"Tonight we are celebrating, something with a bite, slightly tart. Surprise me."

Antonio turned to Julia, "And for the lady?"

"Wine also, and water with two lemons please. I would also like to start with sliced tomatoes, thin mozzarella, fresh basil, ground pepper and just a sprinkle of olive oil."

"Very good. And for you sir, Antipasto?"

"Yes, thank you, and for tonight please serve us without the extra attention. If you don't mind."

"You wish to talk, I will be invisible." With a slight bow Antonio turned back to the kitchen.

"So, what's the mystery. Are you leaving?"

"Do we have to get serious before the first glass of wine."

Dan raised his eyebrows, but kept silent.

Julia played with her silver bracelet as Antonio poured the wine. Dan raised the glass. Looking at her he fulfilled the age old ceremony, passing the wine for its aroma, swirling the glass for color and body, and then a small taste swirled to the sides of the mouth where the taste buds were. A sharp Chianti, very dry. He nodded to Antonio.

Julia leaned back and sipped her wine as Antonio presented the appetizers, taking the moment to weigh her feelings. They surprised her. She and Dan had a good relationship. Given another time she might even have decided to marry him. But, the project was already consuming her. Dan would have to wait. Besides, he hadn't even ask. Yet.

"The project is beginning."

"I thought it had already begun."

"Up to now it has all been preliminary, with time free to do other things."

"But no more. Free time that is."

"No,"

Dan thought he detected a hint of regret, "Don't you have a month or two, ... some time before you're at it."

Julia heard him stumble. Only the four of them knew the timetable. Her antenna went up. Jim had indoctrinated them on security. She shook her head, even before the project got under way she was paranoid. Was it going to be like this for the whole project.

Dan stopped eating and sat back. Then he leaned forward with a raised glass, "To the project then. And to you. I hope you are successful, at whatever the hell it is that you're doing."

Julia laughed, her suspicions tossed aside, and returned the raised glass, "To the project, whatever the hell it is!"

Antonio quietly refilled their wine glasses and withdrew. It would be a long evening.

*********************

Donald Parker sat slightly forward, elbows resting on each arm of the rough textured wing back, his fingers interlocked and his left thumb slowly rubbing his right forward and backward, backward and forward. He was listening, something he did very well.

"You've been a good friend Donald and you don't make serious mistakes, at least you haven't with me."

"You pay me well."

"We both know that's not the sum of it."

"Maybe not." Donald felt discomfort but maintained his poise. Something told him he was about to become part of what was going on. Or maybe it just his imagination. His heart stepped up a beat.

"I can never repay you, yet something tells me you would much rather I forget the whole thing."

"Something like that."

"What would you do if I set you free. With enough to take care of your needs, call it a healthy early retirement."

"I am already free. Setting me free, what does that mean?" Donald knew he wasn't being fired, but he liked things more clearly said.

"Of course you are," It was a rebuke, Donald knew what he meant.

"I'd at least like to see this project through." Donald had said it deadpan but the smile on the older man's face brought a slight grin to his own.

I am going to make you an offer. Please don't say anything until I have finished. If you need time to decide you can get back to me in a few days." Abruptly, with a sharp edge to his voice, Donald spoke, "You owe me nothing."

Slowly, with deep commitment the older man responded, "I owe you everything. But you can take a softer tone my friend, my offer is based on your abilities, not my gratitude. I mean no insult."

Donald looked at the face of the man he had helped these many years, and relented, "Nor do I"

"I know. I have deposited $500,000 dollars into an account under your name. As soon as you provide them with your signature, a credit card and ATM card will be issued, and you'll be in business. "Parker Company, Consultant For Advanced Technology."

"I know nothing about Advanced Technology"

True, but you will know all about a special project, one that is in serious need of your services. And I suspect that Julia will badly need your help once again."

 

At the mention of Julia, Donald focused, all hesitation gone, "There is more to this project than I am aware?"

"Yes, and it will take a while to bring you up to speed. I gather the answer is yes."

"You knew it would be."

"I hoped, I didn't really know. Let me pour us a drink and I'll give you the essentials. The rest will require your personal effort." Marcus watched him closely and saw the veiled intensity in Donald's eyes, he would give his life to keep Julia safe. As he explained the project in more detail, part of him drifted off. He did owe Donald, he needed to protect Julia, and he wanted to see this last project through to the end.

********************

 

Jim was reviewing an old article from his graduate days. Within it his disappointment reached various levels of discomfort that in retrospect both amused him and depressed him. The current leadership of the world was divided in how they perceived their own role of leadership. Those that believed they had the power to live within their own rules, those that sat by and watched the accumulation of power, those that observed and commented but had no real power, and those that were convinced that the leaders of the past built the processes that would protect us from dishonorable and corrupt leaders.

These themes of leadership were often cloaked in secrecy where the goings on behind closed doors did not have to meet public scrutiny. What was waved in front of the public were slogans: patriotism, fear and God in one form or another.

Mostly the visible battles were fights over finite resources, political or religious dominance, and the mistaken view that killing the announced enemy was the solution. The invisible issues were and are many. Most of all the world can be divided into an increasingly large population of neutrals and extremists. Force of arms was becoming the dominate political and religious tool of the 21st century.

Several things he was aware of and believed in. The Quality of all life was dependent on the integrated network of diversity that bound each species to each other from the lowliest virus and bacteria to the most dangerous and complex of all species.

He also believed that the myths, legends, and stories that bound groups of people to the earth, to the heavens, and to all other life had been abandoned. The new knowledge about the smallest of the small had not yet found it's way into the daily culture. A new big picture of our place in the scheme of all things both heaven and earth had not yet taken hold, although many gifted people were attempting just that..

Many people were stuck, in the dogma of religions that had not integrated the new knowledge into their teachings, or in the old stories and myths. This information stasis, i.e. the stagnation of information exchange, diminished all humanity's ability to thrive and flourish. The synergy of all resonates throughout the world and in most cases effectively maintains a massive and complex interwoven network of all life. This he was sure of: It was a serious long term error to believe and act out the idea that the enemy regardless of form or shape or ideology should be eliminated, eradicated, terminated. He also firmly believed that the human role was not an adversarial one but should be as a GUARDIAN. How to accomplish this change in perception, culture and behavior was in the background of his mind all of the time.

The following article was the foundation of Jim's project for it not only guided him in his search for the ultimate solutions but provided the reality that he and his organization would be dealing with as they pursued the project's multiple goals. The excerpts that follow can be read or not. For indeed each of the participants has a story. And in the end, does it matter?

Religions bind groups of people together that are of the same mind about how to talk to their God, how to behave, and who is allowed to represent them to their God. These views are mostly fixed and have only one interpretation.

Spirituality is the connectedness, awe and respect each individual has toward all that is not him/her. There is an allowance for the sometimes odd view that the truth cannot be nailed down. For example, the sun exists. It's sunrise and sunset hold beauty for all to see. But each of us brings out the infinite possibilities that this "beauty" has to offer us. As we each bring the outer world into our lives we know that view is different for all of us. Each of us matters, regardless of who or what we are next to everyone else. Change, however, is necessary. A new truth must be a binding force on all of humanity. But do not let any truth be governed by the latest weapon of choice. Explore the truth, enjoy the awe of the universe, and preserve life here on earth.

Fulfill the promise that life has to offer all who are brought into this world, and honor all who are yet to be born by caring for the present and protecting the future.

 

Implementation of this concept in all phases of our lives can lead us into the future with hope and dignity and allow our children and their children to fulfill the promise of their lives for as long as we all shall live.

Jim shook his head as he finished. Many things would change he vowed, many things would change.

 

 

Chapter 5

Jim Barton closed the steel doors. As he turned and faced the interior of the huge enclosed room he flipped several switches. Two rows of equipment formed a large ring around the 10-foot diameter globe hanging from the ceiling. Bundles of fiber optic cables ran down the shaft and into the globe. Some of these were connected to the ring of equipment. The six satellite dishes on a special protected turret on the upper level roof fed the signals to the main distribution processor. The bullet proof globe was home to multiple three-dimensional arrays and processors which fed back into the rows of equipment. To keep it simple the entire assemblage of equipment had more capability than 100 Big Blues in parallel. A new file system allowed the storage and retrieval of thousands of terra bytes of information. Multiple input stations as well as portable hand-held I/O devices permitted simultaneous data entry and retrieval from anywhere on the planet. A special set of internet connections monitored the WEB. Three search engines were available. Two of them were used to dissect WEB traffic for the team of twelve. This was Jim?fs baby and it could do almost anything except walk and talk.

Hanging from the ceiling, just above a semicircle of I/O stations, were four 90 inch LED screens. These displayed the primary events being monitored or dealt with and responded to both keyboard data entry, voice recognition, and external commands from four uniquely designed hand held devices.

This room and several others were double walled and electronically shielded. Backup batteries and generators maintained the power. Each incoming line was fed through surge protectors that capped voltage spikes at 130 Volts and switch to backup if the power dropped 3%.

Jim turned off the lights, three days to go.

Jim rode one of two elevators to the second floor. Both at this level originated in two small rooms with scanning, and security devices. Visual mapping and voice mapping allowed exit and entry. Once in, there was no way out. The walls were 1 inch steel covered by sound proofing. The doors were interlocked steel and concrete and voice activated.

The elevator that connected the upper area to the "basement" exited in a small room on the second floor which did double duty as his office bathroom. He had visibility to anyone in the office through a modest size two way mirror.

Another elevator serviced the 1st and 2nd floors as did two wide winding stairways. One feeding from the main lobby and one feeding from a secondary gathering area.

Jim sat down. As he did so a panel on the top of his desk opened up and a fully operational master station rose up in front of him. His weight was automatically registered with the computer as he entered the room. Anyone who sat in his chair that was not his exact weight got to enjoy the comfort but that was all.

Jim brought up the files on each member of his organization. Painstakingly he reviewed each and every one of them and what he expected each to accomplish.

Tomorrow would begin the orientation. For the next two days all personnel would learn what it would take to complete the mission. But first a little relationship training was in order and a few EGO?fs would need adjustment.

For the next hour Jim reviewed his current project notes. Somewhere in that hour Jim drifted off, the image of Julia and his Grandfather competing for his attention.

Jim Barton, the Grandfather, lived a simple rather ordinary life. But Jim, the Grandson, found refuge in difficult times in the warmth and acceptance of the old man. He listened to his Grandson with crinkled eyes and often a serious nodding of his balding half grey head. When young Jim talked on and on about his ideas and dreams his Grandfather many times asked questions but they were questions that showed interest. Sometimes the old man would hold up his hands to Jim if the session went on too long, "I think I need some time for reflection, how about if we take this back up tomorrow". Jim was not fooled, the old man needed some rest. Usually they both laughed at the same time as the Old man wandered off to take his afternoon nap.

**********

Julia poured over her profiles of the arriving, and soon to be, members of their small community. At least she was able to schedule their flights to minimize the number of trips to the airport. It would still take three trips and a lot of waiting before everyone was securely nestled in their respective rooms.

Of the twelve, only five were women. The ages ranged from the youngest, 25, to the oldest, 31. Although Julia did not select them based on their looks, all of them were pleasing to the eye. While normal problems were expected, the shear volume of work was going to help dampen the libido of all of them.

Initially Sam and Mike were to live away from the Center. Both were married but neither had children. Both were initially going to help keep the place running smoothly, but this narrow scope of responsibility belied their greater capabilities.

Julia met privately with both their wives. At first they were not super thrilled about their husbands putting in 12 and 14 or more hours each day, not counting holidays and weekends. Plus Sam?fs wife, Kristine, was just starting up a small catering business and trying to enlist Mike?fs wife, Selma, to join with her.

Mike?fs degree was in Marketing and Journalism. But he was raised in the construction industry. He had written a small but effective handbook on what the layman needed to pay attention to when deciding to build, anything, residential or commercial. His father was a General Contractor, but couldn?ft convince his son to follow in his footsteps. Mike just didn?ft want to live with the sometimes severe fluctuations in the business. His father was rugged, independent, and smart. Mike was easier going but learned how to be tough when needed, or just when he wanted to make a point, whichever came first.

Kristine was no more receptive than Selma when it came to the idea of the long hours. She and Sam were married three years ago and while Sam was ok with not having children, it was not ok with Kristine. With him projected to be gone so much she naturally assumed their intimacy would suffer a great deal, and she was not pleased. Plus she was just starting up her catering business. It did not take Julia long to figure out this was not going to work out real well. She did not bring up the idea that having a baby and running a catering business was not an ideal set of goals.

After a couple of well timed discussions with Jim about Mike and Sam?fs situation, Julia came up with the only viable option if Jim was going to keep Sam and Mike in the program. It was simple, straight forward, and only took two more visits with the wives to cement the deal. Kristine would run the kitchen with Selma?fs help and all four of them would run the Center. With several Suites available onsite living for a family would not be a hardship. The Center for Enrichment had lots of built in room for more onsite personnel, Both families agreed to their expanded role in the Center and agreed to the conditions for living there, for a price, the same price that everyone received. The extra was, both of them would allow the center to use their homes for overflow guests, for a modest fee, enough to keep them both properly maintained.

By Monday they were all moved in. Jim personally went to the local Chamber of Commerce. Although their external image was to be a center for enrichment and spiritual growth Jim managed to convince the Chamber leaders he would like to keep the Center?fs public profile to a minimum. With a promise to keep the Center?fs membership current and to participate when possible at special functions, financially if not personally, Jim walked away with reassurances that the Center would be able to maintain a low profile in the community as a privately run business.

Four permanent staff members were housed in a separate building to handle all of the normal day to day, shipping and receiving, laundry, transportation, food, utilities, landscaping and janitorial, and general maintenance. Mike, Sam, Kristine, and Selma would be in charge of running the Center. They would also be integrated into the program by Jim and Julia.

Tuesday and Wednesday was orientation, Tuesday evening was the get acquainted dinner, Thursday morning was getting busy.

Chapter 6 - Month 6

 

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