Roadside Philosopher-A Novel... Maybe

Chapter 1 -The Memory

     Middle age sucks! Where in all of literature is the hero a middle age female? How is a person supposed to have a good self image when there are not any stories to pattern a life after…at least, not positive ones.     Oh, you hear the stories of the women who have been left by their husbands and their battle to…well, just survive. Some make it successful in their own business, but anyone with any mentality or wisdom at all realizes it isn’t business success that makes life happy.  

  The typist stopped to reread what she had wrote…”This is good.” She thought. At least that’s what I wanted to say. Anne sat daydreaming at the screen waiting for the muse of inspiration to take the magazine article onward to it’s 1500 word limit, when her face went blank, and the memory again came to haunt her.

    It wasn’t a memory really, because it was too fantastic to have really happened, but it was so real and haunting that Anne had given it some credence simply because of its persistence. Every time it hit, Anne sent her entire gray matter into trying to figure out where this “memory” came from and how it fit in with her real life existence.

     She sat there pondering… “Where had she seen that place?” The place was pretty generic. At the foothills, during dry weather, things were mostly brown, and a little pond with just a couple of trees surrounding it that contrasted flagrantly with the surroundings by insisting to be green. Well in Utah there are foothills everywhere…so that wasn’t much of a hint. 

   When did it happen? That was the next focus. The place she seemed to remember but the when? One would think if she kinda remembered the place that it would have to have been somewhere in the past, but the feeling she got was that it was in the process of happening. That made no sense. 

    She shook off the whole thing and got herself centered again in the here and now. She was sitting at her son-in-laws old Macintosh computer typing an article for a women’s magazine. It wasn’t because she really wanted to type a magazine article. It was just something to do since everyone had left her here alone, which she would be for the whole day.   

   Her husband was off at his meeting for his Search & Rescue. This time he didn’t even think to ask her to come along, and after he had asked her to join. Somehow he thought this was for him since he was Captain and not for her since she was just a member. Though if any of the other members had wanted to go, he would have been thrilled to take them. He just thought of this as ‘His’ meeting…even if he had mentioned before that ‘we’ would go.

 Her daughter, Ashley, had taken a second job to earn money for their vacation and her son-in-law, Mark, was in the process of getting dressed for his job, which allowed him to work Saturdays. He chose to do so whenever his wife worked. So vehicle-less, and far from home, this was the only thing she could think of to do.

     She ran her fingers through her hair. The fresh haircut, short, for the summer had brought a few compliments from her loved ones. That was always nice since she was way past her prime. There really wasn’t much else to compliment her on. Four children, and five major operations had left her body riddled with scars and disabilities. Her beautiful 36-24-36 figure became more a family legend rather than a fact since of course the children had never known her to look that way. She continued her typing….

    Joseph Campbell spent his whole life studying the reason why we have stories and concluded that they were a model for life. If that indeed is the reason, where are the stories of the middle-age women? Why don’t we even have a reference? You have the wise old ladies, the young virgins, the mothers, and the harlots, but where are the stories of the middle-age women, who are empty nesters. We have no stories to identify with… We are an unwritten story.

 She examined the paragraph to make sure there was no hint of self-pity or a whining feeling and concluded that it was just a statement of fact. She thought she needed to go to the bathroom but her son-in-law was still getting ready, so she repositioned herself in her chair and took a deep cleansing breath.

 As middle-aged women in an age of knowledge, are we forgetting to examine ourselves? Are we content on being the etc. of life?

 “Etc of life.” that was good.

      The opportunity came to make the trip to the bathroom and she came back to the desk feeling a little-less-full-of-it, which for anyone middle aged is good. Her son-in-law,  Mark, returned to his prepping and Anne worried that he would have to suffer with her flatulent fragrance. She whispered, “Sorry,” in her mind.

Do we have nothing to offer to the story of life?

    Things went blank now. Well do we? Anne struggled constantly for the proper balance in life. As a female she was far less emotional and less interested in props than her fellow women.  She couldn’t find entertainment in remodeling and redecorating. If the place looked fine…why redo it? Dusting and housework were done only when they were really needed and not simply as a daily ritual to make the emptiness of life yield some importance. If that is all I am suppose to do at this stage of life…then indeed I am a failure.   

  Ogden! Ogden, Utah…that was the place! It came to her in a sudden flash of insight that had been denied her every time she concentrated for it. The place of the memory was in Ogden, Utah. She remembered her senior year of high school taking a walk and finding fascination in its existence.  She entertained the idea of renting a car and driving to the spot of the memory, but that was over 27 years ago. The growth from small rural town to a troubled city really hadn’t seemed to take that long. The last time she had been there she recalled thinking that not much of what she had known remained. Certainly a pool with trees would have been incorporated into the suburban sprawl or eradicated all together.

    “Well,” she thought, “You would think that such a discovery would help solve the riddle…but it seems more complex than ever.”  

  Mark came in to tell her that Bach was digging in the yard. She followed him to the back yard and Bach leaped to follow her indoors. There was no dirt in his paws but she didn’t doubt that what Mark told her was true. Bach was one of those dogs that adopted the owner and not the other way around. He was such a loving dog, wanting to please, and wanting love so bad it was hard to deny him, but she really didn’t much care for him. Where ever he went he brought bad luck. He was cute, not very big, and the vet said he was a border collie mix of some sort.  She had taken him to the vet just three days ago, a drive from her rural home consisting of a four hour round trip just so that he could be fixed. This action was necessary to deny those redneck neighbors of hers the opportunity for revenge. Their belief system said that they were justified letting their female dogs-in-heat go free, while shooting any male dog that meets her, unless of course they had a male dog, then it would be the neighbor’s female dog that would be the bitch.

 Bach was supposed to be her husband’s dog, the outside dog, but it didn’t look like it was going to turn out that way. Anne already had an inside dog, a little neutered male dachshund, named Odie. Odie was the kind of companion that made you feel that you were God. Anything his owner wanted was what he wanted. If anyone felt the need for a Yes-Man in his or her life a miniature dachshund would definitely fit the bill. Of course, he also thought he was the very best creature in the world and since he was indeed cute beyond all words …then everyone else should pay him homage. Anne and Jack, also, had to “Pay Odie” when they ate, giving him a taste so that he could approve of what was being eaten. Still he was the inside dog and Bach was challenging him for that position.

 They were both lying quietly at her feet now. Odie lying on Bach’s bed in defiance, and Bach behind the computer intertwined with the cords. The wait for “Murphy’s Law” to take over and have Bach’s predominantly ‘bad luck’ show itself was almost too intense for words. 

   She gave Mark a hug as he left for work and wished him a good day. He was indeed a loving boy, and very hard working. She felt any man that could live with any of her beautiful hardheaded daughters had to be a wonder indeed. 

    She continued to ponder the question, “Do we have nothing to offer the story of life?”

           Three daughters and a son, her four children raised, but they were in the past, not a current contribution. She had little input into their lives. The closest of the clan was a five-hour drive away.  Oh, every once in awhile they would call to ask her input in some small thing, like how to cook an artichoke or if a home improvement sounded good, but mostly she had been reduced by time to a knickknack on the shelf.  She made no real contribution to their day-to-day existence, if something happened to her she would just continue to be a memory.

Now that was a nonproductive thought. “Now, you are getting whinny.” She saved her writing to a file on the desktop and chose to turn out the light and lay down on the bed. Her daughter’s guest room was nice and the bed comfortable and she felt welcomed instead of dreaded as a mother-in-law in their home.

  She closed her eyes and allowed the memory to reassert itself. The song she had been singing in her mind when she had first found the place was, “Bill, I love you so, and always will.” Her boy friend in California that she had left to come to Utah was named Bill. She had been missing him, but in hindsight she had just missed the thought of belonging to a fellow.

 Starting a new school far away from home was not new to her. Anne was a military brat and had been to thirteen different schools for thirteen years of her public schooling. She had, a long time ago, dealt with the shock of being uprooted. The pain was a common part of life. But this day she had felt the need to walk from her home alone to wander the foothills and think about this guy and the purpose of life.

 ”I guess things haven’t really changed much, except I am at a different point in the linear line of life.” she frowned. Here she was thinking of her young self, pondering the same thing she was thinking now she was older. Were solutions ever found?  

 She went to sit up, but found that she couldn’t. Bach, she could tell was moving from under the desk and Odie she could feel lying beside her, his full length plastered against her leg. Her eyes were closed and her first thought was that she was having a stroke, but Bach’s movements had changed. Or was it her movement?

      Wait, she seemed to be looking at herself lying there. She could feel her front paws on the bed and the unnatural strain of the back not being flat on the floor. She went to shout and a strange bark came from her throat. She tried to form words and the whole concept seemed to elude her. There was none of the mechanics available and she had nothing to draw upon. It never occurred to her to put in her conscious memory the mechanics of what was always handled from the unconscious side. She couldn’t think, but unconsciously sat. Apparently, sitting was an unconscious part of this body. She let her mind go blank and feel the breathing of the animal inside her.   

           She opened her eyes and once again could feel Odie along side of her. She sat up gingerly while all along trying to squash the panic that encompassed her. Now that was more than just a little weird? What had just happened? Was she loosing her mind? Had she just been dreaming? She looked at Bach and the animal was indeed sitting where she remembered sitting. He looked a little shaken, but on seeing her looking at him returned to his normal “I need love and attention” mode. She unconsciously reached down to her crouch because she had the memory of soreness…but that was Bach that got fixed…AAAARRGGGHHH.

          Normality required that she put this out of her mind. It did not happen! It was a dream…but she knew she would have to deal with this and the memory at a later time. She went down stairs and started running movie after movie to fill her mind with the fantasies of others, so that she wouldn’t have to think about the fantasies of her deluded mind. 

           Her second daughter, Trista, came over in the afternoon with her husband and Anne’s only granddaughter for a visit, interrupting the movie marathon with pleasant NORMAL everyday interactions.

      Toward the end of the visit the strangeness returned. Not as shocking as this morning’s dog episode, but the feeling that she could see and feel from the other person… merging in and out whenever she focused on someone. It was worse than any roller coaster she had ever ridden. Multiple vantage points on the same situation was not a normal way for a brain to process. It made her sick to her stomach and she had to excuse herself to barf in the bathroom. She settled herself down for a time and decided it had to do something with her eyesight. She wet a washcloth and put it over her eyes as she return to the living room to explain that she wasn’t feeling well and would need to lie down. She thanked all three for visiting…all the time with her eyes tightly closed.

      She felt her way back upstairs to the guest room and laid down. Her stomach was settled and she had no headache, but she couldn’t help returning to the memory.

      The pond rippled in her memory recall and she spoke to it. “Is it time?” she said. “Are you ready?” it seemed to respond.     The question made her recoil. Was she ready? I don’t think so…but maybe? .

           .Maybe she better go put on another movie. She got up and did so and was there when her family members returned from their activities.

     She made every effort NOT to meet their eyes.