This week Lucy is sharing some of her photos of her home. For security reasons, I couldn't include some photos such as detailed ones of The Compound where the president lives, or the McKinsey resort. For The Compound I'm using stock photos. Lucy never took a photo of her house near the campus. I explain in the book why there are few photos of her home before development. Enjoy these pictures and look for the book on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Lucy-Goes-Home-Sewer-Book-ebook/dp/B07JYKKSF1/
The Compound sits on ten acres of land along the shores of the Capstan River and is the seat of the national government. The building itself is composed of three wings, each a little over a block long and half a block wide. While the new wing is opulent with pink marble and gold foil everywhere, the old wing is more interesting. If you count the dungeons, it is five stories high, but only three floors and the attic are above ground. The old wing was built of stone in the early colonial days. It originally housed the colonial army and the governor. Now, the wing is mostly abandoned except for the orphanage where a hundred orphans live and have their school.
Lucy: Fire Bombs
On the third floor of the Compound orphanage, a high, keening wail woke Lucy. Her feet hit the floor before her head left her pillow. Without thinking, she scrambled upright, shoved her feet into her fuzzy slippers, and grabbed her robe. The wail continued to rise and fall as Lucy fumbled her way out of her room and down the hall to the boys’ rooms.
U’Kee stood in the middle of the hall staring down at the wailing Alan on the floor. “We’d been playing cards and just went to bed when I heard someone in the hall. Major Michael was doing a check on us because the orphanage in Sylvana was fire bombed. I guess Alan heard the major and me talking.”
The gorge rose up in Lucy’s throat, but she put aside her own reaction to the news of a bombing to deal with Alan, who sat on the floor outside his room wailing and throwing his torso and head against the hall wall.
Lucy grabbed his shoulder. “Alan, it’s okay. We’re safe. Please Alan, you’ll hurt yourself.”
Alan ripped himself loose from her grip as he threw himself backward against the wall.
Lucy looked up at U’Kee, who still seemed frozen in place, his face unreadable as he just stared at Alan. “Get Medic Kai. I think Alan has cut open the back of his head, and this meltdown isn’t going to stop without help.”
U’Kee turned and ran, thankful for something to do that took him away from Alan’s screams.
Backup arrived immediately in the form of Lizzie. The big white dog crawled into Alan’s lap stopping the forward motion of his rocking, thus easing the force with which he could hit the wall.
As Alan threw himself backward, Lucy tried to cushion his head with her hand, but his skull hit it so hard she yanked her hand back and held her wrist as pain shot up her arm. She wondered if her hand was broken.
“I’ll get his blankets and pillow.” Nicole had arrived and darted into Alan’s room to retrieve his bedding.
Lizzie, Pooh and Thomas, the three big orphanage dogs, had been trained for therapy. Pooh loped down the hall, followed by some of his human orphan family. He spread his weight over Alan’s legs while his sister sat up and leaned heavily on Alan’s chest.
Martha knelt on Alan’s other side. “It’s okay, Alan. We’re all here. We’re safe. Just wrap your arms around Lizzie. Give Lizzy a hug. That’s right. Good job. Lizzie loves you. Hold her tight.”
Nicole and Lucy managed to stuff Alan’s blankets and pillows behind him to protect his head.
Subdued by the big dogs and somewhat comforted, Alan’s rocking slowed, but he continued his high-pitched screams.
The third dog, Thomas, arrived, inspected his siblings efforts, and carefully settled himself on Alan between his litter-mates. Lizzy shifted her weight again and started licking at Alan’s tears.
Lucy looked around at the crowd of kids from all the houses. Most of them were crying. “Does anybody know what happened in Sylvana? Are the children okay? Who’s hurt?”
“They were fire bombed. What do you expect?” Miranda screamed back. “Don’t you ever think, Lucy? They’re probably all dead. You’re so stupid. Those protesters will be after us next.” She broke down again in loud sobs.
Lucy stood and glared at Miranda. “Stop with the weeping, now. The kids at Sylvana could be fine. We were firebombed once, and we were fine.”
U’Kee and Kai arrived at a full-out run with Troy, Lizzie’s brother trained for security, loping beside them. Troy stood and wagged his tail at his siblings while Kai dropped to the floor beside Alan. “U’Kee, hold his arm for me. Dogs, hold him still.” He swabbed Alan’s arm then inserted a needle. Alan continued to scream and tried to hug Lizzy with both arms.
Lucy asked, “Kai, do you know anything?”
Kai removed the needle and rubbed Alan’s arm. “No, we passed two security agents in the hall. They didn’t know anything except they’d been ordered to their posts. What set Alan off?”
A chorus of voices answered Kai with conflicting information. Alan’s wail fell to a low moan, and he slumped sideways.
Lucy massaged her sore hand. “Kai, I think Alan may have cut his head open hitting it on the wall.” She glanced around at the hall full of whispering and crying youths. “I think we need to know what’s happened. I’m going to the president’s office.”
“You can’t go outside,” U’Kee said. “those protestors in the park will attack you and the building is on lockdown.”
“I’ll go through the attics.” Lucy patted Alan and said to the dog, “Good girl, Lizzy. Stay with Alan.” She stood.
The rest of the orphans fell silent. The thought of walking through the dark Compound at night sent shivers down everybody’s spine. Rats lived in the basements and scurried through deserted halls. Spiders and occasionally bats lived in the attics. The children feared fugitives, thieves, or squatters lived among the maze of unused rooms and dungeons.
Lucy grabbed Alan’s flashlight from his room. “Troy, take me to President Jake.” She set off toward the stairs with Troy at her side.
“Hal, there’s a customer wants to see you in the front office.”
I looked up from the engine well of the Firebird where I had been watching one of my two high-school interns install the intake hose on the new radiator.
Dutch, the owner of Dutch’s Antique Auto, had crossed the yard from the front office. He was a few years older than me, black and fit in a clean white tee-shirt, sharply-creased khakis, spotless loafers and a curl of frat-boy hair falling across his forehead. He kept his hands in his pockets, safe from dirt and grime.
I turned back to the two girls. “Time’s up. Finish what you’re doing and clean up.”
I picked up my cane from where it rested against the side of the car and fell in beside him.
“One of the cars you did last week,” he said. “The tune-up on the sixty-three Volvo.”
I frowned. “There’s a problem with it?”
Dutch shrugged. “Not that she said. She just wanted to talk to you and said I couldn’t help her.”
I remembered the Volvo, Olga, and her owner Mrs. Parker. I didn’t see how I could have made a mistake with a simple oil change and checkup. I had changed the timing belt and some hoses, cleaned the plugs, general TLC for the most part. I might have missed something, but I couldn’t think what.
Mrs. Parker waited in the lobby, a woman of energetic seventy with weather-worn cheeks, wearing a beige, shin-length skirt and buttoned blouse. She beamed at the sight of me. “Henry Crompton, I thought that was you. We were all so relieved when your mother said you were home from the hospital.”
Her dog, a German shepherd roughly the size of a steer, grinned at me with his tongue draped out one side of his mouth.
Dutch raised his neatly-groomed eyebrows and retreated to his office.
On entering the lobby, I’d instinctively cocked my head to conceal the scars that disfigured the right side of my face. I forced myself to face her squarely. “Call me Hal, Mrs. Parker,” I said, “Is something wrong with Olga?” I held my deformed right hand across the countertop for Baron, the dog, to coat with foamy saliva.
“Well no, not wrong,” she said. “I wouldn’t say wrong, but I would like to know what you did.”
“It’s all on the work order. I can get you another copy.” I turned to look for the three-ring binder that contained carbons of all the work orders we completed.
“No, I don’t mean that.” She dismissed the notion of a work order with a wave of one work-gnarled hand. “Anyone can do that sort of thing. I want to know what you did.”
I shook my head. “I don’t follow, Mrs. Parker.”
She leaned over the countertop and glanced from side to side for eavesdroppers. “You know.” She winked.
I shook my head again, completely bewildered.
She straightened. “Well, ever since you did her checkup, Olga…well, she arrives everywhere five minutes before we leave.”
“Before we leave. I leave the house at three-fifteen and arrive at the supermarket at three-ten. I’ve timed it.” She held up the thumb-sized watch she wore on a chain around her neck. “Five minutes. Every time.” She grinned at her little pun.
Behind me, something tittered from the back of a shelf displaying models of vintage cars. Always teatime, never tea, Hal darling.
Mrs. Parker couldn’t see or hear Little Samoth, my unwanted demon familiar. I said, “You mean you’re actually turning up earlier than when you left?” A year ago, I would have dismissed the claim as nonsense, but lately, I’d seen stranger things than time-traveling cars.
“That’s what I said. Are you sure you don’t know how you did it?”
Apart from replacing the timing belt, I couldn’t begin to imagine.
Little Samoth shrieked with laughter from under the counter near my feet.
I tried to think of the correct response for the circumstances. Please accept my condolences? Get well soon?
Mrs. Parker shrugged. “Well if you don’t know, I suppose I’ll just take my little time machine home. You’ll do all Olga’s work from now on, won’t you?”
“If that’s what you want, Mrs. Parker.”
She plucked her purse from the countertop. “I wouldn’t have anyone else touch her. Baron, come. Love to your mother, Hal.”
Woman and dog exited the lobby. Mrs. Parker circled the front of the car, patted Olga affectionately on the nose, and held the door for Baron to squeeze in the back. Then she got behind the wheel, presumably to arrive home five minutes ago.
I stood for a good two minutes blinking at the open parking space at the curb.
Behind me, Dutch said, “Well?” I turned around and found him in the door of his office with his thumbs hooked in his pockets and one eyebrow arched.
The mechanics, Finny and Stick, crowded into the lobby through the back entrance. “What was it this time?” Stick asked Dutch.
Dutch just shrugged and looked at me.
Jasmine and Amber, the high-school interns, had come in behind the mechanics. “What was what this time?” Jasmine asked the room in general.
I looked from face to expectant face. “She called it her little time machine.”
Finny whooped and raised his hand to Stick for a high-five. “I get the pot,” he shouted.
“What pot?” I frowned at Dutch for an explanation, but he just raised one shoulder.
Finny was dancing in place. “I called it. Time travel. You said flying car, but I said, ‘Nah, it’ll be time travel.’”
Jasmine jammed her fists on her hips and pursed her lips. “What are you talking about?”
I raised my voice. “Somebody tell me what’s going on.”
Stick had an oddly high, thin voice for a man six foot six and three-hundred fifty pounds with a biker beard pouring down his chest. “We’ve been getting phone calls all week. Remember that teenage kid who bought himself a junker and his dad said he had to pay all the gas himself?”
I remembered the freckled and pimpled sixteen year old who might have a chance at stepping up the social ladder if he just had some wheels under him. He’d looked at Jasmine like Romeo looked at Juliet, and she’d had eyes only for the car, a seventies station-wagon the kid had bought for five-hundred dollars—the price being so stiff only because it actually ran.
Stick said, “Yeah, well, he drove it two weeks and brought it in a few days ago because he thought the gas gauge was broken. I gave it a look, and the tank was topped-up full. That old clunker should have drunk gasoline like an elephant, but the kid said he’d never put a drop in it since the first time he filled it up.”
I waited for Stick to explain the joke.
Jasmine said, “Cool.”
Finny said, “Oh man, plus the doctor who said he never hit a red light on the way to the ER, but he made up for it when he drove to the marina to take out his boat.”
Dutch leaned his shoulder against the frame of his office door and crossed his ankles. “The city planner who busted up his Jag three times this year driving too drunk to see straight. Now the Jag won’t start when he’s been drinking. Any other time, but not when he’s sauced.”
“He was not a happy man,” Stick said. “He said he’d never bring the car back here.”
Dutch grunted. “I’d have kicked him to the curb years ago, but it wouldn’t have been fair to the car.”
“That is so totally cool,” Jasmine said. “When you do mine, can you make it fly?”
Shy, blond Amber said, “What about making it so you never get lost?”
Jasmine tossed her head like a movie star. “That’s what cell phones are for. I’ll decide what I want it to do when I get it.”
I scowled at Dutch. “Nobody thought they should mention any of this to me?” I had worked on more cars than the ones they had listed. There was no way to tell how many people were driving around in time bombs. Time. I shuddered. Where was Mrs. Parker going to wind up if Olga took a wrong turn through time?
Finny said, “If we’d said anything, it might have jinxed the bet.”
“You know, the one about what you’d do next. Stick said flying car.”
Stick interrupted. “Yeah, well, I wasn’t really taking it seriously.”
Finny ignored him. “I said time-machine like Doc Brown in those movies, and Dutch said being invisible to radar.”
Dutch looked sheepish. “I wasn’t taking it seriously, either.”
Finny jabbed an index finger at him and waggled it around. “Your loss. I was serious, and I got the pot.”
Jasmine pouted. “How come we didn’t get to bet? I’d have said...” She squinted at the ceiling, thinking.
“There’s a pot?” I asked.
“We put in twenty each.” Finny did a hip-wagging dance. “And I am forty dollars richer, thanks to you, Doc. That’s your name now, dude. You’re Doc Brown.”
I decided it was marginally better than Phantom Swordsman, which had been hung on me after I was caught on video fighting off a swarm of tentacled leviathans with the blade of my sword-cane.
Dutch pulled a roll of bills out of his pocket, peeled off three and handed them to Finny. “Are you going to finish the Pontiac before five?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Finny waved the bills in the air and hip-wagged out the back door, dancing to an inner beat.
Available on Kindle and in paperback Free until Oct. 30. https://www.amazon.com/White-Knight-Blackwood-Curse-Book-ebook/dp/B07J5MBG2Q/ref
What don’t we know?
Some scientists tell us that an electron can behave like either a wave or a particle. Oooookay. Actually, we’re pretty familiar with the properties of particles.They’re reliably solid. We can manipulate, weigh and measure them. We can interact with particles as we build roads, buildings and machines. Particles are the building blocks of our history.
On the other hand, what is hidden in our history? Could it have been a basic understanding of how waves work that built Stonehenge? What have we dismissed as impossible? What science and knowledge has gotten thrown out as superstition or witchcraft?
We don’t have much information on waves. Most of what I was taught, even in college, has been proven wrong. I was told that sound waves are nothing more than a bunch of particles bumping into each other. Thoughts are particles in the brain arranged in such a way as to stimulate a certain sequence of neurons to fire, giving us the thought that we like chocolate ice cream. This has been our contemporary understanding.
However, if electrons behave both as particles and as waves, how do we interact with them as waves? I think the recent historical answer is that we don’t. I suspect that answer is wrong. It is more probable that it is impossible not to interact with electrons as waves. We just don’t understand how that is done. We don’t recognize it when it happens. We are so immersed in Western logic and scientific thought that we cannot see something that has not been named and described for us.
We’ve long recognized the problem of not being able to see something because we don’t have a word for it, particularly in low descriptive languages. Some early languages don’t have a word for blue. It gets classed as dark along with black and green. Brown is often called orange. As an English speaker, I see a big difference between brown and orange and all the shades in between. People who don't have the words for brown or blue can't identify them as different from orange or green. We've all learned that people living in the far north have many words for snow. For those of us who don't live with snow constantly, we don't see many of the subtle differences and don't know what they mean.
In the same way that naming colors influences perception, recognizing those aspects of our lives that are influenced by wave mechanics might be easier if we named them. Perhaps we do have some names for encountering wave mechanics.
We talk about energy waves, which sounds like a bunch of electrons acting like waves. The theory, I learned for feeling warm when the sun strikes me, is that a bunch of electrons get excited by heat from the sun and bounce around hitting me causing my electrons to bounce around faster, and I experience this as heat. I think we can talk easier about the phenomenon if we forget the bouncing particles and go straight to waves. Waves of energy from the sun strike my skin, and I experience this as heat. Who knows maybe the sun waves turn some of my electrons into waves? The point is, we don’t have words to describe the phenomenon.
However, we know humans have built machines that observe electrons acting as waves. What do we do with this information. Why is it important?
I think it is important because limiting ourselves to the use of particles only limits our potential. Refusing to look at waves and consider the possibilities is willful ignorance. Will understanding Wave Mechanics help us understand our history and the ancient myths and legends? What impact would an understanding of Wave Mechanics have on our spirituality or on our relationship to music? Where can we go? What can we do, and what can we be if we study waves? How do we study them? How do physicists begin?
Physicists don’t begin the study. Writers and artists begin the study by naming ideas and imagining what can be. We like to laugh at how many of the devices seen in the Star Trek episodes have been developed into actual products. Our flip phones couldn’t communicate with the space station, but we have developed means to communicate with the space station and with our explorers on Mars. We have a space station. We need our writers to name ides, concepts and possibilities so that we can talk about them and begin to play with the concepts.
We need to relearn what the renaissance artists knew. Science and art are not two opposing fields, They are connected. Artists must have some sense of spacial relationships, human nature, perspective, and the properties of their materials before they can create. On the other hand, it is the imagination of the artist that gives birth to scientific study.
My daughter, Melissa doesn’t agree with me on the role that wave mechanics plays in quantum physics. We are only amateurs, after all, in the study of physics, but she performs her job as a writer by giving names and descriptions to the concept of overlapping universes in her Blackwood Curse series. She thinks her physical objects slide through overlapping universes. I’d write them as becoming waves that pass through matter, space and time. https://www.amazon.com/Blackwood-Curse-Queen-Corruption-ebook/dp/B077CWT6JB/ref
"Why would anybody in their right mind want to live on an island with no bridges? The only way on or off is by ferry boat!" I think I've heard this question a thousand times. It is also many people's fantasy to live on Vashon Island and run a small farm. This isn't my fantasy. This is what I do. When I visualized a set of photo blogs about my home, I visualized blue skies and warm sunshine. Blue skies and warm are a fantasy. This island is somewhat southwest of Seattle. We get clouds. Situated in the middle of the Puget Sound, which is part of the Pacific Ocean, we never get too hot or too cold. My commute involves hauling bouquets of cut flowers from my farm to my roadside stand in Burton. I do this five days a week.
The little strip of land between the highway and the sea is kinda funky. Sometimes it erodes out and the county comes and dumps more rock behind the rock sea wall. Plants seem to like to grow in this strip. They are usually nothing more than blackberries and stunted alder trees, but I have to admire their tenacity to grow under harsh salty conditions.
One of the magical things about Vashon is that we drive down a road past a housing development next to a farm. We plunge into deep forest, then come around corner to be faced with the water and ocean going transport ships. Tacoma has a major port, so we see ships from Japan, South Korea and China coming in constantly. They anchor off the island, waiting their turn to unload and reload at the port.
Here is the ferry into Tacoma. The trees along the road here are Pacific Madrone. Again this photo was taken through the windshield of the car. I was supposed to be driving, but I stopped in the middle of the road to snap this picture. Note. the slip of paper with the V on my dashboard. This is used when I drive home from Seattle. The ferry there has multiple destinations. At the ferry dock, we display our V so that ferry workers trying to sort cars into the correct lane for loading know where to put us.
I believe that most people are honest and theft is not normal. I think we look at the news, reporting only on the bad things that happen, and we tend to think that we are surrounded by dishonesty simply because nobody reports on routine honesty. My business is an excellent example of how most of a community is content to behave with decency and honor.
I grow flowers organically and sell them at a little flower stand located at the main intersection in Burton. Burton is mostly an intersection with a store and a couple shops. Of course, we have a coffee stand and my flower stand there.
I don’t want to stay out in the heat or cold all day selling flowers, so I drop eleven bouquets at the stand in the morning and go pick up my money and any left-over bouquets in the evening. I have a small cash box with a slit in the lid for people to leave their money in. This operation is strictly on the honor system. Nobody passing by can really see what someone puts in the cash box.
On any weekend, about two thousand people pass through the intersection beside my stand. Most of those people live here. Some are children. Some are youth. Some are immigrants. Some are homeless. Some are wealthy. Some are drug addicts. The peculiar thing about this arrangement is that the honor system works. I rarely have someone take a bouquet without paying. If I do notice my income doesn’t match the number of bouquets taken, more often than not, I’ll find the missing money in the cash box within the next few days. Occasionally someone will stop me and explain that they were catching the bus to visit a friend and wanted a small gift but didn’t have money so they took flowers then brought the money to the stand when they got home. Sometimes people will put in twenty dollars with a long elaborate note about how they didn’t have anything smaller than the twenty, but really needed the flowers, and they want to run a credit with me. Each time they take flowers they’ll leave a note saying what they took and what their balance is.
Occasionally, we do have someone who isn’t honorable. For years one woman would visit the island in the summer and decorate her house with bouquets that she didn’t pay for. Once I almost caught her. She saw me coming, handed the bouquets to her grandchild in the back seat of her car and drove off with gravel and dust flying behind her. Note, this is someone who owns a house in the city and a beach house on the island—not a poor person. I told the local garden reporter about her. I complained about her to everybody I met. I emphasized the role of the grandchildren in the back seat of her nice car. Word gets around on a small island. Other people recognized my description as that of someone who shoplifted in their businesses. Years have passed and this person visits the island less and less, much to the relief of all the businesses, but I know when she’s here.
Aside from that one person, nobody steals from my stand. I’ve talked to other islanders who operate farm stands. Most stands are set up on back roads with nobody around. Yet they function because people will pay for what they take. We once had a group from off island who came on Sunday mornings and stole from stands. They got caught, and we all went back to business as normal-no theft or vandalism.
I think the emphasis of the media on reporting only bad news tends to normalize theft, cheating, lying, assault and any sleazy behavior that we do find in the media. The lying politician is as much an aberration in the totality of humanity is the one person who steals from my stand. The one in three thousand who is dishonest stands out simply because they do things nobody else would think of.
My conclusion is that most people are honorable. They don’t steal. They are not after something they don’t pay for. Children, youth, the homeless, immigrants, the poor, and drug addicts all respect the honor system. Perhaps stealing from a flower stand is one of those significant behaviors that Indicates the perpetrator is a sociopath because most people do respect the system. People are generally okay. The one person, out of two or three thousand people, who steals places a burden on the rest of the community, but does not define humanity.
This is a bit of an afterward to my new novel, Lucy Goes Home, coming out whenever the publisher gets it done.
Grandpapa's New Woman
Grandpapa C’Tis sat in his room with the door closed and chewed on the heel of his thumb. Occasionally, he glanced at the letter on the table beside him. He bit the heel of his thumb and looked across his fields to the small cemetery high on the mountainside facing his home. His wife was gone, had been gone these past twenty years. He had children and grandchildren but they weren’t the same as having a wife. He glanced toward the cemetery again, knowing that His Elspeth wanted him to live. She valued love. He nodded. Elspeth would be happy knowing he had a new companion.
He watched his grandson, Young C’Tis, driving Lucy’s red convertible from her house to the place on the terrace behind his house where the cars were kept. Still gnawing on his problem, he followed his grandson. I should talk to him about Hallie. He caught up to C’Tis as C’Tis set the brake in the car. “How’s Lucy? Is she still asleep? Why did she drive home instead of taking the train?”
C’Tis turned toward Grandpapa. “Uncle Peter just called Kenny.” C’Tis pressed his lips together and looked away. When he looked back at Grandpapa he had tears in his eyes. “Some people tried to kidnap Lucy last night. They chased her half-way across the country. We’ve set a watch up on goat peak in case they try to come for her here.”
Grandpapa scowled and picked up one of C’Tis’s rags to wipe at the layers of dust on the sports car. He thought about his other problem. He couldn’t upset C’Tis with talk of a new woman now. Could he bring a new wife here if evil was still following his granddaughter? Would C’Tis think he’d forgotten Grandmama Elspeth?
Kenny soon strode up to the parking lot, trailing the shop-vacuum behind him. “I’ll get the inside.” Kenny chewed on the hairs in his new mustache. “Derran came up to visit Lucy. He said they made good time last night. He thinks the people following them were after him too because of his work in the prosecutor’s office. He says they were part of the same group that tried to kill the prosecutors.”
Grandpapa nodded. “Is Lucy still sleeping?”
Kenny paused before turning on the noisy vacuum. “Yeah, Derran said she hasn’t eaten or slept much all week because she was worried about her final exams.”
Grandpapa’s chin trembled. “Is Lucy safe now?”
Kenny nodded. “She’s safer than most people in this country. Nobody will dare touch her now that the leaders behind the troubles have been captured.” Before Grandpapa could mention his new woman, Kenny turned on the vacuum.
Grandpapa left the young men to clean the car and took his bigger problem back to his room. He read the letter on his table. Someone would have to pick the woman up at the train station in the morning. What should he tell the children? What if he didn’t like the woman when he saw her. What if her voice was loud and grating? What if she didn’t like his home? What if she didn’t like his adopted children because they’d been orphaned?
He paced for an hour before he climbed the mountain to the settlement at High Valley. He nodded to his neighbors as he made his way toward the shaman’s hut. He found his old friend laying on his back in the grass behind his hut feeding bits of leaves to a baby goat.
“I’ve come to ask your opinion.” He sat cross legged in the grass beside the wise man. “When I was on TV, this woman wrote to me after, and I wrote back." He poured out his problem. "…so, she’s coming. I haven’t said anything to anybody about her because we’ve written to each other, but I don’t know if she’ll have me once she sees me.”
The shaman still on his back rolled his head to the side to look at Grandpapa C’Tis. He considered his words. The woman would be a complete fool to refuse Uncle C’Tis. He was the richest man in the mountains. He had powerful friends. He was also naive for all his experience with the outside world. “Bring the woman home and give her a room at the resort. Now, if she wants to get in your bed, you tell her she must wait until the archbishop makes it all legal. Meanwhile, you watch her real close like. She’ll be nice to Miss Lucy, but watch how she treats Beulah. Watch Mr. Kenny. If she’s the wrong sort of woman, Mr. Kenny and Mrs. Irene will see that in a flash. I’ll come visit you day after next and see if she is the right sort of woman for your family. She must respect Mrs. U’Nice.”
“Ah, the right sort of woman for my family.” Grandpapa nodded and stood abruptly to return home.
When he came back down the mountain he ran his hand over the red convertible and imagined himself picking up his new woman from the train station in this car. He nodded. The convertible would be much nicer than the truck. He studied the instrument panel. Could he drive the thing?
Before the sun came over the mountains the next morning, Grandpapa, dressed in his second best suit, tiptoed out to the sports car. He winced when the motor roared to life. He watched the windows to see if he woke any of his grandchildren. Once started, the car was quiet enough to slip down the road and over the pass without waking the rest of the family.
As he drove down the winding road that would take him out of the mountains, his lower lip protruded farther and farther. What if she isn’t the right sort of woman? She sounds nice in her letters. How will we get rid of her if she’s bossy with Mrs. U’Nice? What if she doesn’t want me? She sounds eager to come, but maybe she’ll think I’m too old. Maybe she won’t have come, after all. I should have said something to C’Tis or Lucy. I hope she’s the right sort, but I don’t know. How will we …?” His thoughts felt like they were spinning faster than the wheels on the car.
Before the train came in, Grandpapa had gassed the car in the village and greeted his village friends, “I’m picking up a guest for the resort.” He parked the car at the station, then shuddered when he saw a curtain twitch in the second floor window at the new pharmacy his granddaughter, Sarah, owned. Should I go tell Sarah I’m just picking up a guest for the resort?
He didn’t need to tell Sarah. The owner of the general store popped in Sarah’s back door to get some aspirin and say, “I see your Grandpapa has a new car. He’s picking up someone for the resort.”
Sarah nodded. “That’s the car Lucy and Martha drive at university.” She glanced out the window toward the car. “You know, someone tried to kidnap Lucy when the prosecutor’s offices were attacked the other night. She drove all the way home.” She bit her lip. “Can you let us know if anybody is asking about the car, or her?”
Before the train came in, a boy about ten ran down the back path from the farm store to the pharmacy. “Miss Sarah, I’m to tell you not to worry about those people who are looking for Miss Lucy, we know how to give them what for.”
The train arrived and Sarah stepped out the door of her pharmacy with a sack of supplies for Grandpapa to carry back to the clinic at the resort. The owner of the bakery met Sarah in the middle of the road. “I heard about those people who chased Miss Lucy home. We have a plan for them if they show their faces in the village. We don’t like their sort around here.”
Sarah nodded at her neighbor and missed seeing the resort-guest throw her arms around Grandpapa and give him a hug somewhat more than warm.
Officer Burke came trotting up the only street in town. He reached the red convertible just as Grandpapa tried to open the passenger door for the woman clinging to his arm with both of her hands. “Elder C’Tis, we’ve heard about the attack on Miss Lucy. We consider her one of our own. Nobody’s going to be nosing around here looking for her or that car.” He pulled his belt back up around his waist.
A scrawny farmer with sweat stains under his arms and manure on his boots, stroked the convertible. “I saw this car come through my place the night before last. Was that Miss Lucy and her young man?” He scratched the back of his head, pulled a seed or bug from his hair and dropped it on the ground. “I guess I can put a chain and lock on my gate. I’ll put up a big bell. Anybody who wants to come through my land can ring the bell and explain to me why they need to come through.”
Sarah finally got a word in edgewise. “Grandpapa, I have some medicines and supplies for Kai.” She held up her bag.”
The woman beside grandpapa finally dropped his arm. “You must be Miss Sarah, the pharmacist. C’Tis told me all about you. I’m Hallie S’Kay from Argos City.” Hallie held out her hand.
Sarah dropped her bag on the front seat of the car and shook hands with Grandpapa’s friend. “I’m pleased to meet you.” She glanced at the stationmaster standing behind Hallie holding two large suitcases and thought that Mrs. Hallie had come prepared for a long stay.
The baker watched the new woman from under half-closed eyelids. The farmer scratched the back of his head again. Officer Burke hitched up his belt again and said what everybody else thought. “Now, Sir, don’t you worry about Miss Lucy, or anything. We know how to take care of our own, and there won’t be no outsiders coming in here harming Miss Lucy…or anybody else.”
Poor Grandpapa turned this way and that and wished these people would just go away and let him get on with it.
Sarah wanted to laugh over her protective neighbors. “Grandpapa, you can’t drive Mrs. Hallie up the mountain with the top down. We’ll have to put it up just to get her luggage in.
The stationmaster sprang forward to help Sarah with the convertible top and to stow the luggage, while Hallie stood beside Grandpapa and praised everything she saw. She finally hit on a topic to make everybody happy. “Oh I saw the paper in Mesa City this morning. I looked for the graduates, you know. That paper said Miss Lucy McKinsey graduated first in her class.”
Sarah puffed a little as she bent over the back of the driver’s seat and wedged her sack between the two suitcases. She looked through the far window. “That’s good news. I think we all knew she would, but school will be easier for the younger ones if us older ones do well.”
Grandpapa was finally able to tuck his friend into the car and close her door. He wondered why he thought he could drive to the village and pick someone up without everybody knowing his business. What would she think of him, and the village people almost threatening her. He felt heat creeping up his neck. What would A’Kee say? Would his grandchildren accept her? What if the children were too noisy for her? He turned the car toward home and stepped down on the gas leaving a trail of dust behind him.
Of course, Sarah pulled her phone out of her pocket before the dust settled. She debated a half-second over who to call first. She decided Lucy had the first right to know what was in the wind. “Lucy, I’m calling to tell you where your car is. Grandpapa is using it to bring a female friend home from the train.”
“What kind of female friend?” Lucy sat at her kitchen table and paused with her bite of waffle half-way to her mouth.
“The kind that looks at him like an adoring puppy, clings to him with both hands, and looks like she can’t wait to eat him.”
Lucy’s laugh sounded evil to Sarah. “Right. I’m all over this. If I don’t get any hanky-panky, neither does he. Do you know, he told me that I can’t get married at home, and that I have to go to the capital so Uncle Peter can be there, and that he has my whole wedding planned? He makes the rules. We’ll see how he likes living with them.”
Lucy got off the phone and called up the stairs to her sisters, “Everybody on deck. Family meeting in fifteen minutes. Important guest coming in.”
Fifteen minutes after Sarah called Lucy, the whole family gathered at tables in the outside kitchen. Lucy opened the discussion. “Grandpapa has a girlfriend, and he’s bringing her here. We need a nice room for her at the lodge.”
C’Tis hid his hands behind his face and sniffed. “Praise the mountains, the sky and the wind. He’s clung to the past ever since Grandmama died.” He shook his head.
Adele watched C’Tis. “Right. We need some flowers for her room, and maybe we should take her some of the extra rugs from Uncle Andrew’s room.”
Lucy’s phone pinged. She looked at the screen. “This is KA’Lee from the Argos orphanage. She says. Your Grandpapa is Mrs. Hallie’s new man? Sparkling! I’m so relieved. Everybody worried when she bought new clothes and left town to meet a man none of us knew. She’s a sweetie. You’ll love her.
Kenny had been standing behind where C’Tis sat. He let out a long noisy breath. “That’s a relief.”
Martha’s phone pinged, “This is from Cousin James. He ran a background check on Mrs. Hallie through the Federal Investigative Service Office. It came up clean.”
Lucy’s fiancé Derran stopped his truck by the outdoor kitchen. He waved his cell phone in the air as he hustled to Lucy’s side. “I just heard from Prosecutor LeMoin in Argos City. He knows this woman Grandpapa is bringing home. He says she worked as an aid at his son’s school.”
Mama U’Nice raised her hands in the air and said, “Hallelujah! Another pair of hands.”
Kenny looked at his brothers and sisters. “The poor woman doesn’t know what she’s getting into. Now that everybody has investigated something that probably wasn’t any of our business, we better get a move on to give this woman a warm welcome.”
As he drove the car down from the pass toward his lodge, Grandpapa wondered if he’d ever laughed as much as he had on the ride home from the village. Next, he wondered what kind of fool he’d been to think that a man living with twenty-six grandchildren could bring home a new woman without everybody in the family turning out at the lodge to inspect the new guest. He inventoried the family lined up outside the front doors. The little girls wore their party dresses. Lucy, Martha and Nicole had their hair pulled up on top of their heads. They waved to Grandpapa as he arrived. Mr. Kenny wore his suit and rushed forward to open Hallie’s door.
Grandpapa let out the breath he’d been holding for days. His grandchildren would help him impress this new woman. She’d love them. The worst of his worries were over.
After finding myself with a serious and very painful infection and no medical services available in my community, I decided to find out what was wrong. When I moved to this island, we had two thousand year-round residents and another fifteen hundred summer people. We also had four doctors. We had lab facilities and minor surgery capability. We now have ten-thousand year-round residents and two doctors working at a clinic that can’t make ends meet. What happened?
As for the clinic, I couldn’t understand why it suddenly stopped making enough money to survive, so I attended a community meeting about health care on our island. The clinic administration sent a couple representatives to talk to us. The representatives agreed that the clinic was at capacity with only two doctors. They also said their goal is to provide primary care rather than stitching up minor cuts. If we cut a finger or a child falls off their bike and scrapes a knee, they are expected to go to an urgent care center off island. Because of ferry schedules, it can take up to two hours to get to an urgent care center. Old people with the flu are expected to ride the ferry to get their Tamiflu prescription. If you have an ear infection, strep throat, broken bone, or pneumonia, take the ferry off island.
One representative had a graph showing sources of income for the clinic. It didn’t look right to me. He had a pale green section for grants. City of Seattle gives clinics inside the city grants. We don’t qualify. They had a purple bar for Medicaid income and a blue bar for Medicare income. The orange bar for income from private insurance was tiny. That just couldn’t be right. Everybody, on the island young enough to work, has health insurance.
I raised my hand. “Why aren’t you bringing in more from private insurance.”
The rep answered, “They only pay about a third of what it costs us to see a patient, while Medicaid pays one hundred percent and Medicare pays about sixty percent.”
I didn’t believe him. Surely, that expensive health insurance we buy actually pays our doctors for the services we receive. Didn’t the ACA specify that insurers have to pay eighty percent of their proceeds in claims? Okay, having worked with human services agencies I know twenty-percent overhead and profit is outrageously high and can be manipulated by how you define services.
I went to the internet and started looking for articles on who pays what. After reading several articles I came to the conclusion that I was wrong and the clinic representative was correct. Health insurance companies make up their own schedule of what they are going to pay, and a doctor’s office or clinic receives a portion of what they allow. In most of the cases I read about, insurance companies pay about a third of what it costs to see a patient.
I’ve found rumors that big systems like Swedish in Seattle can negotiate with insurers to get a better level of reimbursement. They have a huge base. If someone wants to sell health insurance in Western Washington that policy must cover the Swedish system along with the University of Washington system. Everybody uses those systems for backup on complicated issues.
So with only thirty percent of their costs reimbursed by insurance, how can a clinic survive? As I mentioned, they get some government grants—read: our tax dollars. Both Medicare and Medicaid reimburse at an acceptable rate so Medicaid patients are sought after to offset the deficits cause by private insurance—read: our tax dollars.
My community doesn’t have enough Medicaid and Medicare patients to offset the costs not reimbursed by private insurance.
I have some serious ethical concerns about the funds people with disabilities bring into a system being used to offset the costs of healthy, wealthy people. The practice smacks of prostitution.
My youngest foster daughter who has multiple disabilities lives in the city now. I had wondered why she has such attentive doctors. She has appointments every six weeks. Sometimes she’ll see more than one practitioner at once. She is over medicated, and some of her chronic conditions never get better. Once, I got her a cream at the health food store for a rash. It cleared that rash right up. The doctors told her not to ever use it again. The rash is back, but she’s afraid to use her herbal cream. We can’t have this little source of income for the clinic get well.
So, we have clinics that are not sustainable without an influx of tax dollars to support those people who buy insurance through their work or the exchanges. We have clinics who use Medicaid patients to supplement their income. Because clinics and private practices are not sustainable, we have trouble hiring enough professionals to serve communities outside the big population hubs where clinics can attract more Medicaid patients to exploit.
What do people in rural or isolated communities do? On Vashon, we are exploring our options. Some people have suggested a medical tax district to subsidize patients who have health insurance—more tax dollars. Some people have looked at the system and said, “This is almost socialized medicine. Why not go all the way?” The eventual ethical solution to the problem is a national single payer system, but that is not likely to happen before I get sick again, despite the fact that it would be cheaper for the general population and is almost what we have now.
Curiously, one of our biggest road blocks to a single payer system is the person who buys insurance through their job then says, “Why should I have to pay taxes so that some person who doesn’t work can have health care?”
The real question is, “Why should someone with disabilities have to run to the doctor every six weeks and take more medications than they need or is good for them, so that you can have health care?”
In the meantime what can isolated communities do to attract medical professionals? We must be able to pay for our care. Before the ACA, Washington State had a program called Basic Health. It was funded through our tax dollars along with a sliding scale fee for those who qualified by being too poor to buy corporate health insurance. My proposal would be to resurrect that program with a few modifications. Basic Health would be funded by those people, who qualified to purchase their health care through the program, because they live in an area with inadequate health care services. The coverage could be purchased at the market rate for private coverage. The big difference between the state sponsored program and corporate health insurance companies is that providers would be reimbursed for what they bill or at least at the same rate as Medicaid pays. This program would need reverses that would need funding through Federal Grants until it could build reserves through premiums.
Until we can find some way to fully fund health care, many of us will go without healthcare despite paying for it. Some people will continue to be exploited for the dollars they bring into a system, and some people will continue to profit off of a broken system.
I’m a little late getting fresh material up on my blog this week. I haven’t felt well. I knew something was off, but didn’t develop symptoms until yesterday when it became obvious I needed to see a doctor and get started on antibiotics immediately.
I called the clinic where I’ve been a patient for thirty-five years. This clinic is under new corporate management. The last corporation that operated the clinic came in more like a hostile takeover than with any intent to provide medical services. They left abruptly taking everything in the building, except the dust-foodles, with them. The doctors reorganized and set up a partnership with the current corporation. I was aware the clinic was having financial troubles and asking for donations from the community. I’m also aware that they received several hundred thousand dollars in donations.
The clinic has been featured in the local paper where the director alleges their problems are due to lack of support from the community, and will we please donate more money. They assure us they can continue to serve us if they can get enough patients.
So, I called the clinic. The appointment clerk is someone in an off-site office who doesn’t know where Vashon is or that it is an island served by ferry boats. The off-site clerk assured me that I could not see a doctor today, but if I call at eight AM tomorrow, I might get an appointment tomorrow.
“Can I make an appointment today to see the doctor tomorrow?”
I finally got the clerk to confess that if I wanted to see a doctor anytime in the next four days, I needed to call at eight AM to see if they have an opening that day. This was unacceptable.
Not being able to see my regular doctor and really feeling too sick to take the ferry off island, I did what any modern woman does. I posted my problems on the local Facebook page and asked if anybody knew what I should do.
The best suggestion from the rest of the community was to walk into the clinic and ask to see the nurse. Okay, I walked in and waited almost an hour to see the nurse. She didn’t want to look at my symptoms. She let me sit before she explained in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t see a doctor, and if I wanted to see one, I could participate in the eight AM call-in system that works more like a lottery than a business protocol.
I decided to get concrete and specific. “Okay, I understand I can’t see a doctor here. Do you know of a doctor on the island I can see.”
“Okay, so I need to leave the island. Can you call the ER at Swedish and tell them I’m coming in?"
“No. I can’t do that. I don’t recommend going there because this isn’t life threatening.”
I hung in there. “Okay, what I need from you is some sort of workable game plan. Can you tell me where I can go to get a prescription for antibiotics.”
Finally, she suggested I try a urgent care clinic off island.
I took the ferry and got in to see a nurse practitioner, who glanced fearfully at my infection and called in a prescription for an antibiotic.
My next challenge was to get on a ferry-boat that would get me home before the pharmacy on the island closed. I managed to catch my ferry and get the anti-biotic. It took me a total of ten hours from the time I started looking for help until I was able to get the medication I needed. By this time, the infection was much worse, and I’d wasted a whole day. I took my pill went to bed and slept for twelve hours.
I still need to see a doctor to find out what is going on that I got so sick so fast. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, I have a relationship with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. They can get me in tomorrow to see a doctor and assess what is going on.
My experience is the state of medical care in this country. The problem really is based on profits. The local clinic tries to save money by not staffing for same-day patients. Well-patient checks are just more profitable than dealing with sick people. I suppose well people are more pleasant to deal with. The clinic staff may have thought I was being cranky, asking them if they had a list of referrals for patients they couldn’t work in to their schedule. I insisted the nurse answer my questions about where I could get appropriate care. They will certainly bill my insurance for more than my brief chat with the nurse was worth.
For years, I’ve watched the progress of the policy of having for-profit corporations provide human services. The practice seems to work for the corporation. They’ll get paid for my visit to the clinic yesterday, but they didn’t provide a service other than the two minutes the nurse spent trying to get out of talking to me.
We need to make changes. Clinics do need enough income to pay their employees, but they also need to provide appropriate medical services. The type of profiteering I see locally is totally unacceptable.
My mother-in-law valued competition. She bought her boys competitive games. She encouraged them to do more than their brothers and rewarded the one who picked the most berries or pulled the most weeds. Winning was valued. This worked pretty good for the oldest. The middle child couldn’t do better than his older brother, so he beat up on his younger brother, and that was winning, so it was okay. You know, the youngest of those boys never won. He was four years younger than the oldest. He was smaller. He never got the reward, but he grew up to be a good person despite never winning.
I was raised by two parents who liked to parade their children in front of others, then go do their own thing, leaving us to take care of ourselves. To make matters worse, mother always told us she was a great cook. This was a case where we never would have figured that out on our own. In self-defense, we took up cooking as soon as we could reach the food. Survival in my family meant that my brothers and I had to stick together. We learned to cooperate and look out for each other. Whomever was home at five PM started dinner. I often started dinner, then my brothers would come and finish cooking it while I did my homework.
Hubby and I arrived in adulthood with two very different approaches to life. He claims one reason he married me was that he liked the way my brothers and I helped each other out. The cooperation just felt better.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that when my brothers and I see something that needs to be done, we do it. Hubby’s brothers will have to stop and think about whether they should do a job. Will they win? What will the reward be? Is it the right thing to do? They will do something just because it’s right, but it takes a while for them to figure that out. Meanwhile, I’m standing with my mouth hanging open, wondering why they didn’t do their chores.
My mother-in-law’s goal was to teach her boys to work so they could be successful and they managed to be successful at a time when it was easy for white males to achieve success. Since they like to make comparisons, we’ll look at how they’ve done with their competition-winning philosophy compared to those who grew up cooperating. Money, education and status wise, both families are about the same. However, those who cooperate, have had less stressful lives and, I think, more fun despite the tragedies that come with life. I’ve certainly never seen anything in scientific literature on life success being related to having a high need to compete. A work ethic is beneficial but whether you choose to compete with others or cooperate doesn’t seem to be a factor in life success.
As Hubby figured out by the time he was six, the problem with competing is that someone loses. The system is constructed to produce those who lose. Those who lose may not be the one who doesn’t work as hard or has less innate ability, but someone who may be younger or female or have some other status that places them at a disadvantage. Hubby eventually became as experienced as his brothers and equally strong, but that sense of having continually been the loser in family activities has sent him in a different direction from his brothers, and he isn’t really friends with them.
Now, there is nothing unique about either my upbringing or Hubby’s. Some families emphasize competition and some emphasize cooperation. These are just different values. We see these values played out in society. Some people cooperate and some compete. These are simply values people have.
The important part comes with making judgements or allowing your own perspective to color how you see someone else. I have no idea how many times someone has been really angry with me, thinking that I’m competing with them when my goal has been to cooperate. I understand why they are upset, sort of. If I am successful at something, in their mind, I must be attempting to make them lose. However, I never ever think someone will see my actions as attempting to put others down, so when I look up from my successful task and say, “look it’s working” I’m always taken by surprise at others’ anger. I thought we were working toward the same goal and forgot that those who compete must look like they were the one who reached the goal first.
I think the misunderstanding between competition and cooperation, is at the root of much of our social conflict. Those who are focussed on competition are afraid that someone is going to make them lose. They absolutely cannot see the person who jumps into a task beside them and starts hauling dirt as someone who is going to help.
Part of attempting to save our communities, and ultimately, our country is going to be recognizing that people have a different approach to life. Nobody has to have a meltdown over people who are cooperating. Each of us needs to be aware that others are different and recognize that our enthusiastic attempts to be helpful are not always appreciated. It’s hard, but some of us need to take our cooperative efforts to a group where we will not be a threat to those who are trying to win, even when we all may have the same goal. We can reach our common goal by allowing each other to work in the way we each value.
Delinda McCann is a social psychologist, author, avid organic gardener and amateur musician.