Catchy (Sitting 65) Just As I Am… September 9th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3790)

Matthew sat quietly in the rental car he had selected at the airport, having arrived early for a meeting with Milton Crenshaw–one he promised Jubal he would cover.

As he sat on the narrow thoroughfare winding through the trailer park leading to Crenshaw’s mobile home, he watched with great curiosity as a mama duck led her four babies across the road. She was so damn organized.

He suddenly felt very stupid because he envied her. She was just a duck–but she had a family. Matthew had no “honey” and no “sonny.” Just himself and a nice rental car. Oh–and of course, there was that little thing of being saved by his old friend, Michael Hinston and being given a second chance via a liver transplant.

Matthew knew he was an ungrateful son-of-a-bitch, but that didn’t make him any more thankful. When Soos called him that morning and told him it had been a hundred days since anyone had heard from Jo-Jay, he was concerned–but not engaged.

Likewise, it had been seven days since anyone had heard from Carlin Canaby. Matthew investigated, and discovered that Carlin had turned in all his rental properties and checked out of his suite at the Las Vegas casino. He was nowhere to be found.

Jubal felt that he should take over some of Carlin’s duties, so he asked Matthew to take the weekly meeting with Milton.

Matthew had been very reluctant. There was no real reason for it. Well, he didn’t like trailer parks. Or old men. And he wasn’t particularly fond of fat people–especially if they were “preachers of the Gospel.”

Overall, he just felt ill-suited for the task. However, the ducks completed their journey across the road, so Matthew decided it was time to go meet Mr. Crenshaw. Like a boy called to the dinner table on broccoli night, he took his time, dragging his feet. He trudged to the door, knocked, and a voice from inside bellowed, “Come on in. It’s open.”

Matthew stepped through the door. Sitting in a wheelchair was a big fat man with a grin. The fellow reached out a hand and Matthew took it. He then offered Matthew a seat. Matthew sat down and declined coffee, breakfast and water–he wasn’t staying long.

Milton waited for a moment and then realized that Matthew had no intention of starting the conversation. So he launched. “You’re a talkative one, aren’t you?”

“No disrespect, sir,” answered Matthew, “but you’re a stranger to me and I’ve never been particularly fond of strangers…”

Milton interrupted. “Especially big fat ones that preach the Gospel, right?”

Matthew was taken aback by the bluntness, but managed to reply, “Oh, no. Nothing like that…”

“So are you tired?” asked Milton.

“My flight wasn’t that long,” began Matthew.

Milton interrupted again. “I’m not talkin’ about your damn flight. I’m just wondering if you’re tired of dodging and trying to escape the obvious.”

“What is obvious?” asked Matthew.

“What is obvious?” mulled Milton. “Well, how about this? We’ve tried for several hundred years to live in a world where everyone is allowed to believe anything they want to, do anything they want to, and even form governments around that thinking, without any objection.”

“That’s what they call freedom,” inserted Matthew.

Milton laughed. “‘Freedom’s just another word, for nothin’ left to lose.’ That’s from Bobby McGee.” He peered at Matthew and added, “I’m sure thqt was before your time.”

Matthew sat up in his chair and stated, “Well, if it’s conversation you want, and you want it to be honest, I would just love to receive this report I’m supposed to collect and get the hell out of here.”

Milton smiled. “Well, I see you have some backbone. That’s good. So you want my report? Here’s my report. I’m sitting in a room with a man who has been blessed–who is so ignorant that he feels he has the God-given right to question the logic of the universe. How’s that for a report?”

“I don’t like you, Mr. Crenshaw,” said Matthew. “And it’s not because you preach the Gospel or because you are heavy-set.”

“You mean fat?” Milton interrupted.

“Your word,” countered Matthew. “It’s not because of that. It’s because you’ve eye-balled me ever since I walked in, as a potential conquest for your ego-stroking evangelical need to save the world, one damnable sinner at a time.”

Milton lurched back in fake horror. “Oh, my God! I don’t want you to get saved! Then you’d be my brother in Jesus and we might have to work together! I’m just pointing out that you find yourself to be so intelligent and erudite–yet the obvious continues to escape you.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What is the obvious?” asked Matthew.

“I didn’t say I’d tell you,” replied Milton. “I don’t usually waste my time sharing valuable information with those who are determined to be ignorant.”

Matthew stood to his feet. “And I’m not accustomed to hanging around to be insulted. I’ve had enough of this. I’ll just tell Jubal that it was great and you were super-fine. How’s that?”

“Sit down,” demanded Milton. Matthew didn’t move.

“Please,” added Milton with some tenderness. Against his better judgment, Matthew sat back down.

Milton paused. His demeanor changed.

“My dear friend,” he began gently, “if the human race does not find a common cause, a common kindness and a common appreciation, we’re just gonna fuckin’ kill each other. I hope you don’t mind me using that word. I don’t very often, but sometimes it’s the only one that grants correct emphasis on the desperation and futility of a situation.”

Matthew jumped in. “My problem with you is not that you say ‘fuck.’ My problem with you is that you’re a big, fat fuck.”

Milton laughed. He roared. He slapped his chubby thigh and he rolled his wheelchair closer to Matthew.

“That I am,” he said. “Do you know why?”

Matthew shook his head.

“It’s because while you deliberate two inches of rope to determine its strength, the world is hanging itself by the remaining length. Please understand–I don’t follow Jesus because I’m a religious man. Hell, I had a porn addiction at one time in my life. I had to fight it off like crazy. I’m not a good man; I’m not a pure man. Morality is not my primary concern. It’s common sense. You see, the reason they killed Jesus of Nazareth is because he was sensible. And the reason the church today does not preach Jesus is because it’s afraid their people will not tolerate the simplicity of ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ It’s much easier to play the organ, the guitar, preach the sermon and feign worshipping the heavens with candles and eucharist. But meanwhile, the world keeps dividing into smaller and smaller groups. And the smaller the groups are, the more dangerous they become. Organization becomes easier. You see, it would take China months–maybe years–to get agreement to destroy the world from all its various leaders. But sixteen fanatics in a garage in Syria, with a dirty bomb, could pull off tragedy before the weekend.”

“If we don’t come up with a common message–a common goal, a common sense–we will kill each other. And you see, Moses won’t do it–he believed in killing. As did Mohammed, Buddha and all the religionists throughout history. Jesus never killed anyone. He never recommended it. He said God is your Father, nature is your Mother, I am your brother, and the whole world are your cousins.”

“If that message doesn’t permeate our society in the next twenty years, we will have diminishing results, which will end up in a foolish decision to prove some asinine point.”

Matthew was stunned, but didn’t want to act like it. “What gives you the right, Mr. Crenshaw, to make decisions for everyone in the world?”

Milton leaned forward and said, “What gives you the right, young man, to deny that the decision has already been made, the price has already been paid–and all that remains is for each one of us is just to walk into the wisdom of loving one another and being kind and tender-hearted?”

Matthew laughed. “And you think you’re kind and tender-hearted? You think the way you treated me this morning is the spirit of love? If your attitude is Jesus, then you can stick the motherfucker right back up on the cross as far as I’m concerned.”

“Very dramatic,” said Milton. “I can see why they asked you to take on this mission. You have the power of your convictions even when they’re wrong. You started out your life–you wanted to be funny. You are funny. You wanted to have your own business. You do. You wanted to be successful. You are. You wanted money. God knows you got that. You wanted people to look up to you. Accomplished. Yet you sat in your casino suite and nearly drank yourself to death. How gentle do you think I should be with such arrogance?”

All at once Matthew broke. It really wasn’t anything Milton had said. It wasn’t a conviction from the challenge. But tears filled Matthew’s eyes. Not the usual weeping, where he conjured self-pity over some perceived injustice to his character. These tears were coming from another place, out of his control, streaming down his face, though he willed them to cease.

Matthew wept. Then he sobbed. And then he cried out, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!”

Milton backed up his wheelchair and turned away to give Matthew a private moment.

Matthew was moved–but angry at the same time. He didn’t want to be some common, everyday sinner, repenting and weeping over evil actions. He hated himself for being weak.

But none of that stopped the tears.

Quietly, Milton spoke–nearly under his breath. “Just as I am, and waiting not, to rid my soul of one dark blot. Just as I am, without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me.”

Through a gushing of tears, Matthew squalled, “Why did they kill him?”

Milton paused and turned slowly to Matthew. “Because they foolishly thought it would stop him.”

This brought an even greater torrent of mourning. Milton eased his wheelchair over and put his arms around Matthew, who laid his head on the old man’s chest and cried like he had lost everything.

No one hurried the moment. No one spoke again. Neither Milton nor Matthew knew exactly what it all meant.

Yet something was different.

 

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Catchy (Sitting 61) M, Leo and the First Meeting…August 11th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3762)

Grateful he was.

Matthew sat quietly in his overstuffed and overpriced first-class seat on the midnight flight from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas.

The plane was dark. It was quiet. Most of the passengers had taken their tiny element of a sleeping pill and disappeared into slumber.

That was also true of Leonora, who quickly explained that she was exhausted from the audition and needed to get some solid airplane z’s on the trip because she had a meeting the next morning with the symphony coalition, to discuss health benefits.

Her excuse, like every performance in her life, was well-rehearsed and inadequately presented.

As Matthew had gotten to know her, he liked her less and less, and so found himself burying his interest and passions into their sexual adventure.

She was opinionated. Matthew had always viewed himself as open-minded–easy to get along with–but in her presence felt defensive. He hated it when she insisted he start calling her “Leo,” because she viewed herself, in the realm of business, intellect and art, as a lioness.

“You are what you claim to be,” she mouthed.

Matthew nodded, quite certain that many claims were being made every day by mortals which made the heavens laugh.

What really troubled him was when she started calling him “M.”

Just the letter “M.”

When he asked her why she was doing that, she said, “I’m encouraging you to grow. You need to realize that you’re on a journey to fill out your name.”

Matthew didn’t know what the hell that meant, but was in no mood to have it explained further and end up with more dents in his body work. He was also afraid that if she started in trying to become his psychoanalyst, he would have to be more forthcoming and tell her that she was much less than she presumed.

Her oboe playing had never been great, but had become even less proficient as she started to complain about the fellow-members of her quintet and the unwillingness of the symphony conductor to listen to her suggestions on seating and tone.

She viewed Matthew as an ignoramus, even though he had spent many years enjoying classical music, and had a very good friend at the university who was an oboist. Matthew kept his mouth closed except when they were kissing.

It was especially difficult that day, when she met him at the airport, explaining that the audition was long, she had to wait, and then it turned out that she had some sort of microscopic, tiny split in her reed, which prohibited her from gaining the full height and depth of her range. She requested another time to audition but the committee refused. So she failed because they were inconsiderate.

Matthew listened to her rail for a solid hour–against the walls, the furniture, the paint and the chairs that surrounded her, blaming everything she possibly could for her setback–except for the fact that she was insufficient for the moment.

It was the strangest relationship of Matthew’s life. There was a deep-rooted part of him that loved her madly; an exotic jungle passion that nearly left him breathless. But as a human being, she had selected the portions of intelligence that she revered, while ignoring the virtues that make such knowledge applicable.

Matthew remained silent.

Sitting in the darkness of the airplane, glancing over at his sleeping lover, he began to cry. It actually turned into a tiny sob, which he hoped nobody else heard.

He was so embarrassed. He was ashamed–but also enraged, because here he was, with a defunct liver in his body, battling for his life, simultaneously apologizing for breathing.

How in the hell had it gotten so complicated? What was he going to do?

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his own remedy for insomnia–a tiny flask of a brandy which included a shot or two fo sherry. He downed the remainder of the contents and put his head back. Sleep still refused to come–so he cried.

Matthew finally dozed off, with tears streaming down his face.

*****

The following morning, in Washington, D.C., Soos decided to get started on her project.

She thought she had the easiest assignment of all. Michael Hinston, who had been a Congressman, wining and dining lobbyists who were salivating for his vote, now had a humble one-room efficiency at the YMCA. His marriage to the Lutheran minister had been annulled when she discovered all the trials and tribulations chasing him, threatening to destroy his life. She loved him, but she still wanted out.

So he was alone with his twin bed.

Soos called Michael and he agreed to meet with her at ten o’clock A.M., at a little diner he claimed had the best waffles and scrapple on the East Coast. Soos explained she had never eaten scrapple–avoiding it because the ingredients seemed to be the rear-end of every barnyard creature. But Michael said she would probably enjoy this batch.

Arriving at the diner, they found a booth in the back. They embraced–the kind of embrace that merged “old college friends” with some tenderness of man and woman, and a huge immersion in fellow-travelers of faith.

As Michael pulled away he had tears in his eyes.

“Why are you crying?” asked Soos.

Michael chuckled. “Because I can–and I am the luckiest man in the world to be able to cry this morning.”

Soos took the next ten minutes to explain to Michael what had transpired with the abduction and the request made to her–to contact him, the goal being some secret discovery about his involvement, which was beyond her comprehension.

“Well, since neither one of us know what it means, or have any idea of the significance, I think it’s good that we came to eat waffles,” said Michael.

And eat they did. Soos ended up actually enjoying the scrapple, though she thought it was a little salty.

They just talked. It was a conversation that would be difficult to explain to a stranger, so filled with tenderness that it would always be remembered as priceless.

“There was a time in my life,” Michael said, “when if you had told me that some organization or guy had chosen me for special attention, I would have assumed it was just great foresight on their part. I wasn’t just arrogant–I was religious about my arrogance. I actually believed that God wanted me to be the best father in the world. The best husband. The best extra-marital lover. The best Congressman. And of course, the best cheater in Washington, D.C. Sometimes when you’re going for the best you forget that it has to begin with good. You know–good, better, best?”

Soos smiled. She had always loved Michael because he was clever. Unfortunately, cleverness could have dangerous blow-back.

Michael continued. “I almost lost everything. Let me edit my own statement. I did lose everything–but I never actually had it. I just pretended. I pretended so hard that, honest to God, I could not imagine what was happening when my first wife left me for a Lesbian and my second wife left me because I was a criminal. Everybody leaves me.”

He grinned. “And I really can’t argue with them. They’ve got really good reasons.”

“So I don’t know why anybody would want me to do anything. I did fix the radiator in my room, so when winter comes I’ll be warm. That was pretty nifty.”

Michael paused.

“Will you talk to me about Matthew?” he asked. “I don’t think I ever loved a man as much as I love Matthew. I don’t think I ever told him that. I was afraid he would make fun of me.”

Soos giggled and spit out a little bit of her coffee. “He would have.”

Michael chuckled. They sat for a moment. Soos reached over and took his hand.

“He’s dying,” she said.

Michael lifted his head, shocked.

“Not quickly,” she explained. “But his liver is shot to hell, and gradually, he’s just poisoning himself. “And he has a new girlfriend that has the personality of a prickly pear.”

Michael laughed. “What you’re saying is that she is difficult to sit down on and talk to.”

For some reason, Soos found that statement hilarious. She laughed and snorted, gaining the attention of half the diner. A dirty look from the proprietor finally made her sober up.

“I don’t want to get you kicked out of your favorite diner,” she said.

Michael waved her off. “Forget about it. I waffle on my favorite diner.”

He smiled with the innocence of a ten-year-old boy. “What can I do for Matthew?”

Soos considered and then injected, “Got a black market liver in your pocket?”

Michael crinkled his brow. “No,” he said, “but I have a liver in my body.”

“Don’t you need that?” mocked Soos.

“Yeah, but not all of it. I could give him a piece of mine.”

Soos shook her head. “That’s ridiculous, Michael. Anyway, you probably wouldn’t be a match.”

“But what if I was?” queried Michael. “What if I held the key to Matthew’s life the way Jesus held the key for mine?”

Soos groaned, a little disgusted. “So now you think you’re a savior?”

“No,” said Michael. “That job is filled. It just seems like if you could save someone, why not go ahead and do it?”

A lightbulb went off in Soos’s head.

“Oh, my God,” she said. “Is it possible that your part in this, whatever…mission…is to help Matthew and bring him to Jesus?”

Michael teared up again. He took the final bite of waffle laying on his plate, seemingly deserted. He chewed, swallowed, and looked Soos in the eye.

“My dear sister,” he said slowly, “I can’t imagine a greater calling.”

 

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Catchy (Sitting 55) It Wasn’t a Terrible Idea…… July 1st, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3720)

No plan is perfect–except in the minds of those who want to declare it so, to calm their nerves.

And certainly, this particular plot put together by Charmaine and Thomas was only functional if every detail worked in unison.

Trouble began as soon as they hit the hallway heading into the rotunda. Thomas realized how out-of-place he was in his cowboy hat and serape, fearing that they were in danger of jeopardizing the plan. So he quickly removed them, searching for a trash can as Charmaine moved briskly down the hallway in front of him.

Rudyard Simmons, a fifty-three-year-old guard who had served the Capitol for twenty-five years, found it a bit suspicious that someone was disposing of their clothing in the trash, so he eased over to speak with Thomas. Mr. Kinear sprouted some nervous energy, which made Rudyard even more suspicious.

Simmons was a fine, old, wizened civil servant, who actually had achieved his job because his mother had the good sense to name him Rudyard (after Rudyard Kipling) figuring that white folks, who might be considering hiring him some day, would be aware that at least name-wise, he had brushed up against European tastes.

Meanwhile, Charmaine turned around, aware that Thomas was not behind her. Seeing Rudyard making his way toward her cohort, she made a fatal mistake. She panicked.

She instinctively reached for her gun, and before she could cover it up, one of the guards spotted the weapon and screamed to the whole hallway, “GUN!”

When Rudyard heard this, he turned toward the sound of the warning, and Charmaine realized that the scheme was unraveling. She pulled her .38 calibre pistol from her holster and aimed at Rudyard, as several guards moved toward her.

Charmaine fired her weapon at Rudyard, but he, still possessing some cat-like reflexes, ducked, hitting the ground so that the bullet flew over him and struck Thomas in the chest.

Without missing a beat, Rudyard–who had never used his weapon during his entire twenty-five years; never even pulled it from its holster–yanked it out with all his might, swirled around on the ground, pointed at Charmaine and fired, striking her with a bullet in the throat.

The two intruders lay bleeding in the hallway of the Capitol Building while Rudyard’s heart pounded like a marathon runner’s. Charmaine lasted about two minutes before she completely bled out. She was barely able to form any words, but did manage to gush an anguished, “Sorry.”

Thirty feet away, Thomas was dead. Quite dead.

The hallway was now full, as the gallery stood by in stunned silence. Slowly, two of the Capitol armed guards moved over to help Rudyard to his feet. With horror in his eyes, he asked his friends, “Did I kill her?”

No one responded, but instead, took him to the nearby office of the Speaker of the House and sought a doctor to examine him for any wounds.

It really wasn’t a terrible plan. Charmaine and Thomas had conceived to capture the Speaker of the House and take him into the Chamber, holding him hostage until their demands could be met.

Thomas had become a “knight in armor” for millions of Americans who were unable to afford their medications due to the rising costs of drugs. Charmaine had joined him when her mother was forbidden a particular treatment because the insurance companies deemed it unnecessary.

Maybe the two of them should have sought more peaceable means of presenting their plight, but when there’s smoke in the air, it’s difficult to decide which fires to put out.

That night the President of the United States secured time on all networks to speak to the people, but CBS sent a request to have Jubal Carlos address the country, right before the President spoke.

They had no idea if they would be able to connect with him, especially since he had just finished the series in North Carolina with the reporter, Jennifer Carmen. Not only did Jubal take their call, but he agreed to fly to Washington to share.

The network asked him how much time he would need. They were a little shocked when he responded, “Four minutes.”

So five were set aside, just in case, and promptly at 7:55–just prior to the eight o’clock hour when the President was due to speak–Jubal sat on the steps of the Capitol Building with a single camera framing his face.

“Horrified. Shocked. Despaired. These are words that will be used for today’s events in the hallowed halls of our legislature. We should be upset. But in the midst of it, some very powerful and positive moments occurred. His name is Rudyard Simmons and he’s fifty-three years old, and you would have never have known him. Nor would I, had this tragedy not occurred. Had this attack happened five months ago, I’m not so sure Mr. Simmons would have been ready for it. Just because insanity has an agenda–one which is evil–does not mean good people are prepared to do their part. What has happened in our country over the past months has not only built up our love, increased our hope, but it’s made our faith more sturdy.

“Rudyard Simmons saw something that didn’t look right–a cowboy hat and a serape in the Capitol Building being thrown away by an anxious stranger. He wasn’t judging cowboys nor Mexican immigrants. He moved decisively to find out if there was something that needed to be done. Over the past years we have lost our boldness. We nibble at each other. We fuss like little children. But today, a real man boldly walked over to ask a question, and in doing so, threw a wrench into a plan to silence our government.

“I don’t know what the President is going to say. You know I am not a political person. But tonight I am grateful for the boldness of Rudyard Simmons, and more than that, I am thrilled that his faith, along with his works, made sure that there weren’t many dead.”

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Catchy (Sitting 53) Assigning Blame… June 17th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3706)

She birthed triplets.

Jenesca Bradbury, in a matter of just a few minutes of time, brought three living souls into the world.

There was no father present–matter of fact, no father was ever brought up or even mentioned. Just three little boys and their mother.

She named them Jubal, Jasper and Jamison.

They were born into poverty, they learned to live in poverty, and most importantly, Mother Jenesca made sure they were happy, though poor.

For the first two-and-a-half years of their lives the boys lived in Salinas with their mom at their grandmother’s house. It was difficult. The house was small and Grandma was sensitive to too much noise.

So one night when Jenesca wiggled a furlough from the house for some private time, she sat at a bar and met a man named Roy.

Roy Carlos. He was a farmer from Clovis, who spent all of his time planting, picking and selling fruit.

After the second–or maybe it was the third–drink, Roy suggested that Jenesca pick up her three boys and move down to Clovis. He had an old Amish barn about four hundred yards from the main house which could be fixed up and turned into living quarters for her little family. He promised her work, pay, and a way to keep the kids busy with chores, which would provide a legitimate form of daycare.

Maybe it was the alcohol. Maybe it was the tugging emotions from the pedal steel guitar in the country music playing in the background. Maybe it was a young woman who was just tired of living with her mother and pretending she was dead. Whatever the reason, Jenesca agreed.

In less than a week, she, Jubal, Jasper and Jamison ended up on Roy’s farm, fixing up the loft in the barn, trying to turn it into something that resembled a home. Some folks from the local church brought in furniture and managed to hook up a stove and refrigerator to make it seem more functional instead of just a hair-brained scheme.

Like many women before her, Jenesca decided that this was what she was going to do and she would find a way to be content with it.

Roy was a happily married man, and his wife tried hard to be tolerant of the new young hen who had crept into the barnyard. Still–Mrs. Carlos was suspicious. Roy kept his distance, and Jenesca tried to be good, but within a year’s time they were lovers.

They were very careful to keep it quiet, and had all of their rendezvous at the Holiday Inn in Fresno. But Mrs. Carlos was always aware that when a teenager was hired to watch the three boys, it meant there was a party in the making.

Amazingly, it didn’t change anything. Maybe Mrs. Carlos was tired of Roy, or Roy had some magical personality that he unleashed on his wife at just the right moments. No one ever knew how the situation worked. After a while the gossips got tired of chatting about it, and accepted the fact that three young men were growing up in a barn, and three grown-ups were practicing what might be considered to be barnyard morality.

There was always work, and because of this, money was available. Not much. Mother Jenesca referred to it as “aggravating dough.” Just enough cash on hand to make you wish you had more.

The boys never enrolled in school. Although Jenesca was of European descent, all three of her sons had golden brown skin, leading everyone to believe that Jenesca had welcomed immigration. She wasn’t comfortable with her fellows being away from her, so she taught them. She taught them everything she knew, everything other people thought they should know and a whole lot of things from the Bible that she considered necessary.

They did attend church–one that mingled Baptists and Pentecostals who agreed to participate in each other’s activities to keep peace. All three boys were born again at the age of twelve. All three felt the God was calling them to do something other than pull rotten peaches from baskets. And all three of them had stars in their eyes while simultaneously surrounded by very dark nights.

It came time for Mother Jenesca’s birthday. The boys were fifteen years old and decided they wanted to do something special. She had never been on a trip. She cleaned up, dressed up and acted like she was going to Paris every time she drove down the road to Fresno with Roy.

Jubal, Jasper and Jamison wanted to send their mother on a trip to New York. They priced it: $823.

Jasper had an idea. There was a convenience store in Clovis. Out behind the store, surrounded by weeds, was a Camaro. It was ugly, but still in solid enough shape that it could be fixed up and sold to folks who liked such vintage wheels. Jamison got pen and paper and figured out that it would take about a thousand dollars to fix it up if they did all the work themselves. Then another thousand would be needed to put tires on it and give it a good paint job. Finally, a thousand dollars for the trip to New York.

So the three boys figured if they could get three thousand dollars out of the car, they would be coming up with the best birthday gift ever. They were told by those in the know that such a vehicle would actually garner about five thousand dollars.

There was only one obstacle. Could they talk the manager of the convenience store into letting them have the Camaro? After all, it had been growing with the sucker-plants for at least a year.

It was decided that Jubal would speak for the trio. They were completely delighted when the owner said if they could get it out of there, they could have it.

A time was set to meet with the store owner to sign the title over and for them to pick it up. Jasper borrowed the truck from Roy and headed out for the store.

They were all ready to collect their prize, but the owner was very busy. Matter of fact, they ended up sitting in the truck for three hours, until it was time for the store to close.

Then everything seemed to go just fine. The title was signed over, and they started removing the car from its buried condition. The owner left the store and drove away.

About fifteen minutes later, while they were hooking chains onto the car to pull it out, a Clovis police car rolled in. Jubal quietly and slowly got out of the truck and walked to the middle of the parking lot with his hands held high. Jasper followed Jubal’s lead and did the same.

But Jamison was stuck under the Camaro, trying to hook the chain onto the drive shaft. He didn’t see nor did he hear the police arrive.

So Jamison slid out from under the car and came walking up from the darkness with a big wrench in his hand. The young Clovis policeman was surprised. He had already pulled his gun to ensure there would be no trouble. When he saw Jamison emerging with the silver tool, he fired at him.

It was an accident.

He didn’t even know he had pulled the trigger until Jamison was lying on the ground bleeding. The two brothers ran over. Jamison had taken a hit between the eyes. There was no life; no movement.

It crashed into their minds that suddenly the three had become two.

******

This ended the essay written by Jennifer Carmen and delivered on Monday morning at the NBC affiliate. When she first arrived, there hadn’t been much interest in her presence, nor the project. Obviously, Raoul had not promoted the idea to the management.

But Jubal, anticipating the situation, had arrived with ten copies of the essay and passed them around to secretaries, copy writers and bosses.

As Jen chatted with a couple of sales people, suddenly the room was filled with moans, groans and tears. One of the big-wigs emerged from his office and said, “Who in the hell wrote this?”

Jen sheepishly raised her hand.

He continued. “Is this real? Did you get this story from Jubal Carlos?”

Jen nodded her head and answered, “Yes. That and many more.”

“So he has a twin brother?”

Jen nodded but added no further explanation. The next thing she knew, she was called into the office and given a contract for a nine-part series to be shared on the nightly news.

The boss introduced himself as Mr. Wiggens. Mr. Wiggens just sat there and shook his head, glancing over the piece one more time.

“I know they say this all the time, but this is gold. Hell, this is gold.”

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Catchy (Sitting 52) Jen… June 10th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3699)

Manning the desk as weekend program director at a television station is an honor for an up-and-coming reporter, but also an acknowledgement that this particular individual does not have enough seniority to escape weekend work.

At thirty-three years of age, Raoul Matteen was the youngest person to be given the position at WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was permitted a skeleton work force of about seven other people, in order to, as they say, “keep the home fires burning.” But he was fully aware that if any home fires in Charlotte, North Carolina, actually did start burning, they would usher in the real staff.

Arriving back from lunch on Friday, Raoul, who insisted on being called Matt to simplify matters, was informed that he had a visitor. The receptionist rolled her eyes in a seductive way and announced that there was a tall young woman with long, brunette hair waiting to meet with him. Matt decided to act miffed, as he had seen his mentors do many times before. But after putting up the illusion of “being too busy,” he asked the receptionist to send the young woman in.

In walked Jennifer Carmen.

She was wearing a beautiful black dress and black patent-leather shoes. She had been in town for three days, spending most of her time out at the Soulsbury Campgrounds. (She had purchased three identical navy-blue jogging suits with white piping for her visit to the revival park, hoping not to draw too much attention to herself.)

Yet she needed to know. Or he needed to know.

At no time did Jennifer Carmen forget that she was really Jubal Carlos with an extensive–and expensive–makeover. He walked around for three days, greeting people, introducing himself as “Jennifer,” and was even able to pull off his disguise to people who should have known him–Jo-Jay and Soos, primarily, who just welcomed him as “another one of the girls.”

He was confident he could pursue his plan.

The idea was simple. He decided to go to WCNC on the Friday, knowing that the young manager would be willing to meet with Jennifer, and that he could make an impression as Jennifer, to set up a scenario to meet with the higher-ups on Monday.

When Jennifer walked into the room, Matt stepped back, a little surprised, his eyes widening. Jubal smiled inside. He extended his hand with as much feminine grace as he could muster, and daintily shook Matt’s nervous paw before sitting down elegantly in a nearby chair. The budding executive decided to speak first.

“My name is Raoul Mateen, but everyone calls me Matt.”

Jubal cleared his throat to ensure that the voice he had rehearsed was fresh and ready to go.

“Well, Matt, my name is Jennifer Carmen, but everyone calls me Jen.”

There was an uncomfortable moment of silence. Since Matt had never had a meeting with anyone, he wasn’t sure how to conduct one. Sensing his inexperience, Jubal (Jen) continued.

“I don’t want to take too much of your busy time, so let me cut to the chase. Please forgive me for saying that. It’s such a cliche. As a writer, I’m always fighting cliches. You know what I mean?”

Matt nodded his head, totally fascinated.

“Let me phrase it this way,” continued Jen. “Let me tell you what I have, which you might be able to use.”

Jubal purposely paused for a second to see the wheels turning in Matt’s brain. It was deliciously devious. He then commenced his ‘Jen plan.’

“I am good friends with Jubal Carlos. I have been since youth. We grew up in the same neighborhood. We were always best buddies, and I know him like I know my own soul.”

Matt leaned forward in his chair and picked up a pen, fiddling with it in his right hand.

“Why haven’t you come forward earlier?” he asked slowly.

“Jubal asked me not to,” replied Jen flatly.

“And why did he ask you not to?” asked Matt, doing his best to interrogate.

Jen crossed her legs, tilted her head upward as if thinking, took a Kleenex and dabbed at the corner of her eye.

“Because there’s so much to tell. It’s difficult to know where to begin, and often in the world of the press, if you begin and even tell it all, they think there’s something being withheld.”

Matt tilted his head to the side, then stretched his neck and nodded his head, agreeing.

Jen resumed. “What I am suggesting, in the light of the Soulsbury phenomenon, is a series of articles–interviews, if you will–between Jubal and myself, enlightening the American public about this secretive man who has come on the scene to bring music and joy.”

Matt scrunched his face in displeasure. Even to a novice such as himself, the whole thing sounded crazy and contrived. He decided to present Jen with what he considered to be an insurmountable difficulty.

“Tell you what,” he said. “This is beyond my pay grade. My instinct is that our station would want one of our top reporters to conduct the interview, since we know nothing about you. No disrespect. So if you just come back on Monday and ask for the program director, and present your case to him the way you have to me, we can see about putting one of our award-winning journalists on the matter.”

Jen smiled. “Did they train you to say that, or have years of caution made you careful? Is it because you’re a foreign national and you don’t want to make waves, or does your upbringing tell you to be nervous with the white elitists?”

Matt stood to his feet, pointed to the door and responded angrily, “I think I’m going to ask you to leave. If I have problems, they’re certainly not going to be discussed with some stranger walking into my office and insulting me.”

Jen remained seated, but lifted her hands as if surrendering. “I’m very sorry. I guess I’m a little bit energized with the possibility of seeing this story get into the right hands, and maybe a little jumpy, or shall we say, defensive, about it?”

Matt put his arm down and eased back into his chair. “What was your name again?”

“Jennifer Carmen, but you can call me Jen.”

“Jennifer,” Matt concluded, “I am just not willing to be the fool. Do you know what I mean? When you’re working your way up the ladder, it’s a dangerous thing to try to skip rungs to get to the roof quicker. That’s when your foot can slip. And if you slip, you fall. And if you fall, there’s nothing or nobody to catch you. I’m doing real fine without your assistance. If this is a great thing, let somebody else determine that. But if it’s a setup for an asshole, I am not interested in pursuing the position.”

Jen leaped in. “Exactly. I wasn’t asking you to make a decision. I was asking you to allow me to go this weekend to the camp, meet with Jubal, do an interview and bring it in on Monday morning and let you read it. And if you think it’s good, take it to your bosses and see if we can’t make a deal.”

Matt leaned forward. “Are you telling me that Jubal is in North Carolina?”

Jen replied, “I’m telling you that I know where Jubal is. I’m not about to tell you where he is until I can strike a deal on these interviews. Let’s just look at it practically. You want to do something good for the station; the station wants first dibs on a great story. Jubal has things to share with the country, and I want a Pulitzer.”

Matt laughed. “A Pulitzer, huh? A Pulitzer about a cabana-band-leader who travels the world, hyping joy and handing out hamburgers.”

Jen stood to her feet, as if to leave. “Laugh all you want, Matt. But he’s the one changing the world. Not you.”

Jubal headed to the door, confident that he had sunk the hook deep into the guppy’s lip. As he was about to step through the door, Matt rushed to his side.

“Listen, Jen. I think you’re reading me wrong. Yeah. What have we got to lose? Monday morning bring me in, uh-h…” Matt paused, thinking. “Let say fifteen hundred words. Let me soak it up, pass it around to some copy-writers. If everyone’s hot on it, we’ll take it to the brass. That’s the best I can do. I can’t pay your expenses.”

Jen turned slowly, stuck out her hand for the shaking, and inserted, “I didn’t ask you to.”

Matt reached out and shook her hand. Jen turned on her heel and walked out the door. Matt called after her, “Where are you staying? In case I want to get ahold of you?”

Jen kept walking and without turning around, threw over her shoulder, “I’ll see you on Monday morning.”

 

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Catchy (Sitting 51) A Woman at the Well (Doing)… June 3rd, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3692)

Matthew stepped out of the shower and dried himself with the $300 fluffy towel provided by the casino as a part of his luxurious accommodations. He stared into the huge mirror, surrounded by the finest lighting available, to accentuate and showcase the beauty provided.

After peering into his face for a moment, making sure the wrinkles were not opening up tributaries, he stepped back to eyeball his penis. It was respectable–at least, he thought so. And the women he was with last night seemed impressed. Matter of fact, she was out in the other room, waiting for the two of them to have breakfast before she took her money and scooted.

Taking a second look at his friend from “south of the border,” it did appear a bit bedraggled and weary. But what would a penis know?

His brain was stumped over a decision–talc or no talc? He liked talcum powder. It felt good–cool, with just a bit of a sting–but it never disappeared. For the entire day, you walked around like some sort of ghostly apparition, leaving white clouds of dust behind as you shimmied through the room. So he took some lotion and put it on his private area, which felt equally as good, but was more sticky than spooky.

He had absent mindedly been listening through the door, hearing nothing, when suddenly there appeared to be a conversation going on in the adjacent room. He turned off the bathroom fan so he could hear better. There were two women talking.

Who could it be? Who was talking to…? Uh…

He couldn’t remember her name. It was Russian. The name. She wasn’t Russian–she was almost San Fernando Valley. He could not remember. God, he hated it when he didn’t know the escort’s names. Because “sweetie, honey, dear” and “precious” would only take you so far before you started sounding like discarded dialogue from “Wuthering Heights.”

Maybe if he listened through the door he could catch her name from the person she was talking to. Who in the hell could it be?

Well, there was only one way to find out. He combed back his hair (which was still hanging in there, though threats of evacuation continued). He donned one of the thick, white, terry cloth, Penthouse robes and stepped out the door. As he did, his guest from the previous night was speaking.

“…and I especially like the story of the woman at the well…”

“Me, too.”

The “me, too” voice came from Soos, who looked up at Matthew, smiled and continued her dialogue with the unknown Russian.

“What I like about that story, Borish…”

Matthew blinked and nodded, mentally repeating the name three times in a row, hoping it would permeate his skull.

Soos continued. “Jesus knows everything about this woman–knows all her problems and failings, that she’d had five marriages, and she’s living with a man now, but he offers absolutely no condemnation.”

Borish sat for a moment. “I never thought about it that way,” she said. “Matter of fact, he commends her for telling the truth in her own non-truthful way, when she said she wasn’t married.”

Soos laughed.

Matthew couldn’t stand it any longer. “Soos–what’s going on? What are you doing here?”

Soos leaped to her feet and ran over to Matthew, giving him a hug. “I was worried about you. I hadn’t heard from you in some time, so I decided to take advantage of the fact that we have a jet, and fly here to see you.”

Matthew walked over and sat down in a large, expensive chair, crossing his legs modestly.

“Well, you knew I wasn’t dead,” he said with a bit of snip.

Borish looked at him with disgust. “Is that any way to talk to an old friend?”

Matthew looked over at Borish. “Just imagine how I might treat new friends,” he snarled.

This did not sit well with the young woman.

“Are you going to insult me?” she asked.

Soos stepped in. “What a great question! Do you plan to come out of the bathroom–your freshly showered self–and insult the whole room until everyone is convinced of your superiority and dominance?”

Matthew sat still, a bitter taste in his mouth. He hated to get bettered–especially by a woman.

Soos continued. “I was talking to Borish about Jesus.”

“Yeah, I gathered that,” said Matthew. He stood up and walked toward the door. “Where in the hell is our breakfast?”

“What did you order?” asked Soos.

Borish smiled, perching up on her knees like a young girl. “I’m starved!”

Matthew whirled around. “Well, don’t act like I didn’t feed you! We had steaks…you know. Before.”

Soos couldn’t resist. “Before what?”

Borish looked at Soos with big, wide eyes and said, “Mr. Matthew here hired me for the night. You see, I’m a prostitute.”

Matthew grabbed a magazine nearby and threw it down on the table. “Why did you have to say that?”

Borish giggled. “I was just practicing being honest–like the woman at the well.”

Soos laughed. “Well done!”

“Is it Sunday?” asked Matthew, striding over to his desk. “No, here’s my calendar. It’s not Sunday. So why are we talking about him?”

“Because he’s good seven days a week,” said Borish.

Soos applauded and the two women hugged.

Matthew moved over with the stealth of a roaring lion, sat back down in his chair and said, “I didn’t hire you to be glib.”

Borish looked up at Matthew. “I don’t know exactly what glib means, and I know that probably thrills you. But I have a life. It’s not a life people would approve of–and certainly the Sunday people who talk about Jesus would not believe that I could be a believer. But I do my best. But I have always wanted to try to do better.”

Soos looked at Borish, tears in her eyes, then over at Matthew, who was doing his best impersonation of a slab of granite.

Soos erupted. “Matthew, you’re just a goddamn son-of-a-bitch. If you want to have your faith crisis or your penis introspection or your drunken binges or your spending insanity, go right ahead. But there are some people who realize they’ve been given two nickels and are trying with all their strength and might to make it spend like a dime.”

Matthew frowned at her. “You see, that’s the trouble with you Christians. You talk in circles, expecting people to follow you. Just because your leader spoke in parables doesn’t mean they make sense today.”

He took a breath. “What are you trying to say? That I need to be nicer to the young whore? Doesn’t that come with the tip? Isn’t that me ordering strawberries and cream with Belgian waffles? Why do I have to believe that everybody who comes into my life is just as good as the last person who came into my life, who seemed, by the way, to possess more dignity? I don’t mind that she’s a prosptitute. Matter of fact, she’s damn good at what she does. Truthfully, she made me see God last night between the sheets more than she’s doing this morning. But I’m not going to pretend that she’s something she’s not.”

He stopped abruptly. He obviously had much nastiness to spew but he resisted.

Borish rose, walked over to Matthew and knelt beside his legs. “You don’t need to explain to me who I am. I got that. Not every morning of my life ends up in a beautiful casino penthouse with a kind gentleman who has ordered me breakfast. I spend just as many mornings looking in the mirror, trying to figure out what kind of make-up to use to cover the bruises. I know I’m a fool. I know I’m crazy. I know that every time a door opens in front of me there could be a monster waiting. I don’t know what else to do. I have needs. I have a child. It sounds like an excuse–even to me. But until I can get over making that excuse and be willing to live a little simpler, and maybe rely for a time on the kindness of family, or some strangers, I will be doing this.”

Matthew stood to his feet and walked away. Soos came over, knelt beside Borish and hugged her.

“My dear,” said Soos, “you don’t have to do this even one more day. What that gentleman over there has failed to tell you is that we have lots of money. And we have lots of Jesus. And if you’re willing to learn, we’ll give you a job–so you can take care of your daughter, but you can become a woman at the well of doing, instead of a woman who’s afraid of what’s gonna happen next.”

Borish looked at her in disbelief. They embraced. They cried. They stood up and started to make plans.

Matthew turned to them, enraged. “Would the two of you please get the hell out of here? I don’t want to lose my cool. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just want you to get the hell out of here–and by the way, get the heaven out of here, too. I am sick to death of it. I shall eat my breakfast alone.”

Soos looked over at Matthew, confused, with a squinted face. She chose not to speak. She put her arm around Borish and said, “Why don’t you and I take in one of these breakfast buffets at the casino? We can make some plans.”

Soos and Borish walked by Matthew–Soos careful to place herself between the raging bull and the hapless lass. When they reached the door, Matthew spoke.

“Listen, I’m just trying to tell you…”

Soos interrupted. “Please do yourself a favor. Shut the hell up. Understand–there are people who love you, who still love you, even though you’re an asshole. There are some beautiful things going on in this country. Most of them are not at the bottom of a bottle or happening in this room. We’re waiting for you. Whenever you’re ready.”

Matthew gazed at Soos in complete disgust. He didn’t know what to say. So like men often do when they’re devoid of thought, he said something nasty.

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Catchy (Sitting 50) Hiding Out… May 27th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3685)

The digital clock on the nightstand read 2:14 A. M. when the phone in the darkened room pierced through the silence.

Jo-Jay stirred from a contented sleep. She had taken out the motel room for the night to have some private time, away from the hustle and bustle of the tent camp at Soulsbury. She also yearned for a deep, cleansing shower in a bathroom full of steam, warm and cozy.

She sat up as the phone continued to ring. It took her a moment to recall where she was. She eased her way from under the covers, picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?”

On the other end of the line was the nighttime captain at the Salisbury police department. “Jo-Jay, this is Bob down at the police headquarters. We’ve…uh…Well, let’s say detained…this guy. And he’s asked for you to be his contact. You know–his one phone call.”

Jo-Jay had made sure to get to know all the Salisbury policemen, because they were a great aid to the cause at the Camp of Remembrance.

“Who is it?” she asked the captain, with a crackle in her voice.

“I don’t know, my dear. He just wants to talk to you.”

“What did he do?” asked Jo-Jay.

“Well,” said the captain, “I guess you would say he was suspiciously lurking around the campgrounds.”

Jo-Jay nodded her head, even though she did not understand, and told Bob that she would be right down. She threw on the easiest clothes she could find, grabbed her keys, money and purse, ran a comb through her hair and scurried out the door. The police department was only three blocks away, so in no time at all she was standing outside the building, staring through the window at a nighttime skeleton crew, drinking coffee and trying to stay awake.

Coming through the door and walking up to the desk, she introduced herself. The captain stepped forward, greeted her and patted her shoulder. He walked her down a hallway to an interrogation room.

He stepped to the side, allowing her to go in ahead of him. Entering the room, she nearly laughed. Sitting on a chair, dressed in a dirty, wrinkled, stained navy blue suit with a powder-blue dress shirt which certainly had not been laundered in weeks, with disheveled hair and at least three days of sprouting beard, was Michael Hinston.

Jo-Jay had not seen him since the night of the kidnapping and confrontation. She felt no fear, but she also felt no tenderness.

His eyes were swollen, threatening tears. “I bet you didn’t expect to see me,” he said quietly.

The captain interrupted. “Do you know this fellow, Jo-Jay?”

She stared at Michael, wondering if she actually did know him. She absently-mindedly turned and said, “Yeah. It’s fine, Bob.”

Jo-Jay motioned for the captain to leave and sat down with Michael.

He was handcuffed to a chair. She squinted her eyes, sighed, and inquired, “What in the hell are you up to?”

“Do you want the short version or the long version?” he asked with a slight chuckle.

“Actually, I want to be on my Posturepedic mattress back at the Holiday Inn,” she replied, “but since you’ve robbed me of that, why don’t you give me the medium version, edited for television?”

Michael launched. “I’m no longer a Congressman. You might have figured that out. Here’s the story, Jo-Jay. I fell in with some bad people. And what I found out was, I was pretty comfortable with them, which of course, made me bad people, too. So even though I didn’t have anything to do with what happened to you or your friends, I heard rumblings of what might have been the story line. We can get to that later. Anyway, I was told that it was nearly my duty to take a kick-back from Caine Industrial, to subsidize my lack of living expenses. The attorney who instructed me in the ways of Washington and such graft was a guy named Milford Hays. Here’s the truth, Jo-Jay. I kept that fifty thousand dollars he gave me in an envelope for four months. Yet when it came time to consider braces for both Alisa and Bernice, my daughters, and private schools, my salary just fell short. I was tired of being noble. I was sick of being short on a dollar. I ran the check through several different methods of cashing and retrieving–trying to disassociate myself from the funds. And I didn’t think about it anymore until last month.”

Jo-Jay interrupted. “Is there an end to this story?”

Michael bowed his head a bit, sitting still, then slowly lifted his eyes and looked at Jo-Jay. “Jay…I really need someone to be nice to me right now.”

She paused, looked him in the eyes, drank in the depth of his sincerity and nodded. He continued.

“Well, you see, I didn’t realize… Well, a lot of things. But mainly I didn’t realize there was a plot by Caine Industrial to discredit and humiliate me, so they could remove me from my seat and could put in their own flunkie. They sent pictures to my wife of me cavorting around the Beltway with a prostitute. They weren’t real. But that doesn’t mean much to a devoted, aging wife with two children who felt like she gave up her dreams for mine.”

He shook his head. “So a major leak showed up in the media about me taking kickbacks, complete with evidence–accounts and witnesses. The head of the party in Ohio told me I needed to resign. Right after that phone call, I got served divorce papers from Barbara. It came with a restraining order. She was able to convince a judge that my temperament was so unpredictable that she and the children might be in danger. I wasn’t even able to go back and get my clothes. Barbara moved–took the children somewhere. She left three notes behind–one from her and one from each girl. Let me just say that they were not messages of encouragement. The words ‘devastated’ and ‘disappointed’ appeared frequently. Everything I purchased on payments suddenly came due–at least it seemed that way. I was arrested, and they gave me a choice. I could plead guilty to a misdemeanor with a ten thousand dollar fine, or go to trial and risk fifteen years in jail. I took the plea, and as I walked out, I saw the attorney, Milford Hayes, chatting with the district attorney.”

He shook his head again. “All I had was my wallet and this suit. They had picked up my rental car and they froze my bank accounts. I walked out the door of city hall, down the steps, and put out my thumb–to hitch-hike.”

Michael stopped. “Jo-Jay, did you realize that people don’t hitch-hike anymore? I had a horrible time getting anybody to take me anywhere. Finally a truck driver took me into Virginia and dropped me off at a truck stop. He said the best way to get a ride was to sit around the coffee shop and listen to where truck drivers were heading, and then negotiate a deal. It took me three days. I finally found Trucker-man Jackson–that’s what he called himself–heading to North Carolina. I jumped in. Over two days, I developed a toleration for Merle Haggard on the way to Salisbury. I never told him my story–I think if he had found out I was from Washington, D.C., Jackson would have kicked me out of his cab. But I think the filthy suit did make him wonder about my origins.”

Michael sighed. “Well, finishing this up, I arrived in town early this afternoon, and just walked around the Camp of Remembrance. Since I didn’t know anyone…you weren’t there…I didn’t get a tent. So I was hanging out next to a tree when the police came upon me. My reasons for being there were sketchy and my appearance was less than reassuring. So they brought me here.”

Jo-Jay leaped in. “And you thought of me.” She took a breath. “I want to tell you, Michael. I learned a long time ago that it’s not a good time to ask a favor unless you’ve given a favor and believe there might be one available to withdraw.”

Michael nodded his head and considered speaking, but chose silence–a profile Jo-Jay also selected for a couple of minutes.

At length, Jo-Jay asked, “So what do you want to do?”

With tears in his voice, Michael choked out, “I want you to give me the favor I don’t deserve. Vouch for me. Let me get out of these damn clothes. Wash up. Buy a pair of jogging pants, a t-shirt and tennis shoes, and I’d like to be of value to the work here.”

Jo-Jay laughed. “That’s just like everybody,” she said. “After they use up all the good shit in their lives, they suddenly want to give God the husk.”

Michael nodded his head. “Everything you’re saying is true. Everything I’m saying is theory. But everything is closed off to me…but you.”

Jo-Jay agreed to help.

For the next three weeks, Michael grew out his hair, his beard and managed to grow a heart. He actually became a favorite around the camp, because anytime anyone asked, “Can I get some help?” Michael would respond, “I was waitin’ to hear that.”

He was especially helpful with the older gentlemen, who often had more complaints than value. He turned them into a little army of workers who carried groceries and picked up trash.

Although Jo-Jay was still leery of Michael’s intentions, after three weeks, he was succeeding in gradually making a believer out of her.

Meanwhile, back in Las Vegas, Matthew and Jubal continued to hide out.

On a Thursday night, Matthew had a strange realization–he had made an initial run through all the clean prostitutes in the town. He found out, because when he asked for a new one, they sent him one he had already met.

Matthew laughed sadly. He knew this was not what he wanted. He had never envisioned himself a “carouser.” But he knew he could not stand to be a follower.

Simultaneously, on the strip Jubal Carlos had made his way backstage to the Sahara, to hook up with an old friend of his, a master at makeup. Jubal’s request was simple. He asked his friend to take makeup, latex and wigs, and turn him into the prettiest version of himself possible.

He wanted to become a woman–not because he was transgender. Just because he wanted the experience. It took four hours of intense effort and extreme electrolysis, but afterwards, a statuesque, dark-haired beauty walked out of the dressing room.

She needed a name. Jubal decided on Jennifer Carmen.

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