Excerpt for Born Yesterday: Finding Love While Searching for the Past by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


BORN YESTERDAY

Joe Van Rhyn


Copyright 2016 by Joe Van Rhyn

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved. No part of this novel may be stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, including electronical, mechanical, photocopying, or recording. It may not be reproduced in any manner without the written permission from the publisher, except in the case of a brief quotation embodied in a critique or review.

This novel is a work of fiction. All names, characters, objects, businesses, organizations, places and incidents are fictional. Any resemblance to actual events, locals, organizations, or persons living or dead are coincidental.

The author may be contacted at: joevanrhyn@cox.net

On Facebook @ Joe Van Rhyn, Author Website: www.joevanrhyn.com


To my wife Elaine, my rock and my friend, thank you for a lifetime of love and support.

With special thanks to Kathy, for your inspiration


Contents

Introduction

A Man is Found in the Park

Leaving Florida

Doug, A “Townie”

Her Curiosity Continues

Life Moves On

Her Special Patient

Was It All A Dream?

Would Life Change

Very Pleased to Meet You

An Unexpected Visitor

A Pleasant Afternoon

The White Wings

First Kiss

Sixty Years in Business

There Could Be A Problem

Things Were in the Works

Pizza With Doug

Leaving the Glen

The Doctors Were Right On Schedule

Spending Time at Julia’s Place

Josh Meets Doug

Going to Nora’s

It Ain’t Rocket Science

Dinner at Nora’s

It’s All the Unknowns

It A Pricelist

A Look Inside the Icehouse

A New Set of Wheels

A Picnic in the Park

Josh Gives Doug A Hand With the Boat

Plans For the fourth

It Looked Like an Old Keystone Cops Movie

Trouble Ahead

A Trip to the Middletown Flea Market

A New Dress For Julia

The Yacht Club Dance

The Night Was Young

The Truth About Grove Street

Puppies For Sale

Abraham’s Junkyard

A Letter to Julia

What’s in Waukegan?

Lunch at the Blue Water Inn

Dinner at Jenny’s

The Long Ride Home

Back in Pine Lake

Josh Returns to Pine Lake

Big Plans For the Icehouse

Will You Be My Girl?

About Joe Van Rhyn


Introduction

It was the spring of 1964, just five months after that tragic day in Dallas when an assassin's bullet silenced a sitting president. The news clips of Jackie Kennedy, in her pink Chanel suit cradling her husband's lifeless body, were still fresh in everyone's mind.

Civil rights divided the nation. Riots and protest brought unrest in most cities and towns in the South. Sitting in your living room was like having a front row seat to the killing and horrors of war, as the Vietnam conflict played like a television series on the evening news. High school graduates were running off to Canada to avoid the draft and young people from all walks of life rebelled against authority.

Families lived on a little more than five thousand dollars a year. Gasoline was thirty cents a gallon, a loaf of bread cost twenty-one cents, and hamburger sold for thirty-five cents a pound.

A boy had to cough up a buck fifty to take his girl to the Friday night movie, while Dad and Mom could stay home, enjoy TV and a six pack of beer for less than a dollar. The Beatles had the top five songs on the pop charts and Beatlemania affected every girl in America, over the age of ten.

Ford shocked the automotive world by introducing a small, sporty family car. The Mustang sold in the same price range as a Chevrolet four door sedan. A new three bedroom home sold for less that fifteen thousand, with payments under a hundred dollars a month. Hand held, wireless phones were popular in science- fiction comic books. The state of the art telephone was a black rotary dial contraptions hanging on the wall or sitting on the living room table. In some rural areas, four to six neighboring farmers shared a “party line.”

Computers were primitive with basic capabilities, most were bigger than a refrigerator, some the size of a Volkswagen. No one besides the government and Fortune 500 companies had one. The post office was the only option for sending mail to a friend. Stamps cost five cents each.

In spite of everything, America was on the cusp of rapid economic growth. People had more leisure time. They’re traveling, planning vacations, and spending money. The demand for consumer products, such as TV's, stereos, and automobiles was so strong it pushed the stock market over the 1000-point threshold for the first time in history.

Pine Lake, a small resort town located in the central part of Wisconsin, was counting on the Farmers Almanac’s prediction of a long hot summer, to bolster their tourist season. Local business people were crossing their fingers, hoping nothing would happen to spoil it.


A Man is Found in the Park

Julia, c’mere. Did you hear about the guy they found in County Park last night?”

The hoarse nasal voice of Pine Lake’s postmistress and gossip queen made Julia cringe. She had put in a long night at work and wasn’t in the mood to listen to a bunch of chinwag. All she wanted to do was drop her tax return in the mail and go home to bed.

Reluctantly, Julia stepped to the counter. “I wondered what the ruckus was about. Those police cars woke everyone at the nursing home.”

Dolly continued sorting the handful of letters in her hand. “That no good Cory Bradley had the Harvey girl in the park at one in the morning, when this guy stumbled out of the moonlight and fell against their car. They were probably doing the dastardly deed…”

Julia cleared her throat. “What about the guy?”

“Oh, right. He’s got blood streaming down his face, his eyes were glazed and he cried, “help me,” before crumbling to the ground.”

“My God. What happened to him?”

“When the police got there, the guy was unconscious and a bloody mess. He had all these cuts and wounds to his head. One of the cops said, he looked like he’d been hit by a freight train. The doctors at the hospital did everything they could for him but he never came out of the anesthesia.”

Julia clutched her throat. “He died?”

“Slipped into a coma.”

Julia breathed a sigh. “Who is it? Someone from town?”

“That’s the best part,” Dolly said with a grin. “Nobody knows. His pockets were empty, no billfold, no identification, nothing.” Dolly tossed the letters in a mailbag. “I heard too, the Harvey girl missed her period and her folks are sending her to a home in Green Bay.”

Julia had heard the rumor but wanted no part of trashing the girl. “Sorry Dolly, I’ve got to run, I left my car running.” Seeing Dolly’s frown, Julia added, “Thanks for the information.” On the way to her car, an icy blast of air blew her jacket open, exposing her cotton uniform. She shivered and pulled the jacket collar tight around her neck. Yesterday it was close to sixty degrees and today the cold cut clean to the bone.

“Jules, wait up.” Her friend Doug trotted up to the car. “Haven't seen you in a while. What say we go to Teddy's for pizza tonight?”

Julia searched for her keys. “Pizza sounds great. I'm working at the hospital until four. Can we meet at five?”

“I suppose you've heard the news about the guy in the park.”

Julia thumbed toward the post office. “Dolly gave me the whole scoop. I cringe every time I have to listen to her garbage. She never has anything good to say about anyone.”

“That’s Dolly’s stock in trade. In this town gossip travels at the speed of light.”

“I think every police car in county drove past the Glen last night with their stupid sirens blaring. They woke everyone. It scared the living daylights out of some of our patients. They thought the place was on fire. I had a devil of time calming them down.” Julia held her collar closed. “Do they know what happened to the guy?”

“No, Sheriff Joe talked about it in the coffee shop this morning. He doesn't have much to go on.”

“Is it a young guy, an old guy?”

“Joe said he's Caucasian, twenty-five to thirty years old. No tattoos or physical markings, nothing in his pockets or anything that could be used to identify him.”

“That’s what Dolly said.” Julia nodded to the post office. “It’s a little scary, don’t you think?”

“Councilman Harris is afraid it could have a negative effect on summer business. You know how jumpy people get around here if they think something will prevent people from coming. He’s planning to ask the Middletown paper not to make a big to do of it.”

“Do they think he was beaten up or something?” Julia asked, arching her brow.

“Harris said that until we know for sure what happened, we should say the guy got hurt in a fall or something like that.”

“Are people that upset about this? Like it’s some big crime thing?

“The sheriff isn’t ruling that out. He’s sending the guy’s fingerprints to the FBI and checking arrest warrants and missing person reports in a four state area to see if he can find a connection. You know Joe, he's not the brightest star in the sky, but he figures solving a case like this could get him re-elected in the fall.” Most people were still scratching their heads at how

Joe Christenson was elected sheriff in the first place.

Everyone thought it was a joke when he declared his candidacy. His opponent in the race, the chief of police from Middletown, was a well-respected, highly trained officer with thirty years’ experience. The chief should have won by a landslide. Fate handed Joe the job, when a month before the election, the chief suffered a mild heart attack and withdrew from the race. Joe barely beat “none of the above” to win.

Julia gave Doug a wry smile. “Let's hope our illustrious sheriff can find out who this person is. It’s scary having someone found that way and not knowing who he is or what happened to him.” Julia got in her car. “I’ll see you at five.”


Leaving Florida

Julia Parsons had moved to Pine Lake two years ago. She needed to leave Florida. Her personal life was in shambles and she wanted to get as far away from ex-fiancé Brad Holton, as humanly possible. She threw everything she owned into her ‘53 Chevy and headed north.

She had grown up in Milwaukee and as a twelve-yearold, spent a wonderful two weeks at a summer camp on Pine Lake. Having no better place in mind, she kept driving until she landed here.

Pine Lake offered her a place to regroup, to start over and begin building a new life. The people were friendly and the pace of living suited her. In Tampa, everything was hustle. She worked full time in the campus bookstore while completing her Practical Nurse’s training. Her boyfriend, a high school star quarterback, got a free ride football scholarship to the University but took to drinking and partying and flunked out after one semester. Wedding plans were put on hold, as Brad tried to “find himself” and were scrapped when Julia found him in bed with her roommate. To make matters worse, he tried to blame her for never letting things between them get past kissing and petting. He called her a prude for wanting to bring her virginity into their marriage. She packed up and left the next day.

Julia felt fortunate to have landed the job at the Glen, a locally owned nursing home. There weren’t many year-round career opportunities available when she arrived, especially for young people. Her Practical Nurse

Certificate was the door opener and she gladly accepted the graveyard shift. It also helped her land a part-time job at the hospital. Even having to work two jobs to make ends meet, she loved small town life and quickly embraced her new home.

Her shift at the home went midnight to eight in the morning. She’d grab a few hours’ sleep and then be at the hospital, helping out in the therapy room from one to four. This schedule raised havoc with her sleep regimen, but she loved both jobs.

Julia pulled up to her place and ran to the back door.

Her fingers shook as she fumbled to put the key into the lock. She quickly closed the door behind her, threw her jacket over the kitchen chair and hung up her purse. “I’ve just about had it with this cold weather!”

In minutes, she was out of her uniform and into her warm, toasty flannel pajamas. She cheated, set the alarm for twelve-thirty instead of noon, pulled down the shade, and crawled under the covers. Her thoughts of the man found in the park lingered. Who was he? Where did he come from?

The alarm clock made its usual annoying buzz and Julia was quick to hit the button. She threw back the covers and ran her fingers through the tangled backlash of what was left of yesterday’s hairdo. In the mirror, she faced the obvious, strands and curls pointed in every direction. It was going to be a wash and ponytail day.

It took a while for the water in the shower to heat up. She let it run to warm the room before undressing. At twenty-four, five foot six and a hundred twenty pounds, she had a body most girls would die for and most boys would lust after. Her soft features, creamy complexion and high cheekbones turned heads wherever she went.

She sped up her routine and walked into the hospital with a few minutes to spare.

Julia opened the therapy room door and mimed an imaginary fork to her mouth and chewing, to show she intended to get a quick bite to eat. Phyllis acknowledged Julia's crude sign language with a laugh. Phyllis Morgan, an Osteopathic physician, believed muscle manipulation and exercise were essential in the healing process. She pressed for a physical therapy department at the hospital, a relatively new concept in the early sixties.

The cafeteria was packed. The hot station was lined with people waiting for steaming food. Julia opted for the cold station, which had one man looking over the sandwich display. She grabbed a tray, took an apple, an orange, and a small carton of milk. She side stepped the man, and grabbed a ham and cheese sandwich before scanning the dining room. “Hi Florence,” she said to the woman at a corner table.

An elderly woman, nattily dressed with silvery hair wrapped in a bun, looked up from her plate. A smile brightened her face. “Julia, so nice to see you.” Florence was the front desk supervisor and privy to everything that went on in the hospital.

“Have a busy morning?” Julia asked.

“Fridays are always busy. You know, you’ve worked the desk before.”

“For a year-and-a-half.” Julia tried not to appear overly interested. “How is the young man doing? The one they found in the park.”

“He's in a coma.” Florence gave Julia a puzzled look. “Why do you ask?”

“Just curious,” Julia said, picking up her sandwich. “Was he beaten? Do they know who he is?”

“The doctors don't know what happened to him. If somebody did beat him, they did a pretty good job of it. Besides all the nasty cuts and lacerations to his head, he’s got a broken nose, a busted eye socket, and probably sustained a concussion. Doc Richardson did a marvelous job of patching him up. It was a shock to everyone when the fellow failed to come to. His vitals are good and they continue to monitor him in ICU.” Florence put her napkin on the tray. “How do you like working with Doctor Morgan?”

“I love it. Phyllis wants me to take some classes at community college this fall. I’m hoping to become a physical therapist someday.” Julia took another hurried bite of her sandwich. “So... nobody knows who this man is?”

“He’s listed as John Doe. It's funny no one has come forward to claim him.” Florence stood and brushed off her dress. “Come sit with me at the front desk, sometime. I miss our little chats.”

“I will, I promise.” Julia stood. “I’ve got to run too, I’ll talk to you later.” Grabbing the apple and orange off her tray, she hurried to the therapy room.

Phyllis wasted little time getting her protégé involved by having her help a recent surgical patient walk around the room. This was the part Julia enjoyed—seeing people making meaningful strides in their recovery. The afternoon went by quickly. When the clock signaled the end of her day, Julia jumped to her feet, grabbed Phyllis’s hand and danced around. “It’s Friday,” she squealed with delight.

“Got a big date tonight?”

“Not really a date. Doug Foster and I are meeting at Teddy's for pizza.”

“Well, have a good time and I’ll see you on Monday.”

Julia gave Phyllis a quick hug, threw her jacket over her shoulders and skipped out of the therapy room. In the hall, she stopped and took a tentative half step towards the intensive care unit. Shaking her head, she zipped her coat and made a dash to her car.


Doug, A “Townie”

Julia mused over Phyllis' question. Date? No, it wasn’t a date. Doug was a great guy, but she viewed him more like a brother than a beau. She recalled the day they met. Having just arrived in town, she was getting gas at the Shell station when he drove up in his pickup truck. He jumped out and smiled her way. She pretended to be disinterested, but was intrigued with this slender, six foot, middle-twenties guy, sporting a flattop haircut.

Doug was a townie, born and raised in Pine Lake, as was his father. Up until shortly before World War II, His grandfather sold ice for people's iceboxes. He built the icehouse that stood adjacent to the bait and liquor store he opened when refrigerators put him out of the ice business.

Nora, the manager and head nurse at the Glen had clued Julia in about Doug’s family. His mom was from Chicago, sort of a wild hare. They met when his dad worked construction down there. The couple was only married a few months, when the grandfather passed away, and had to come back to Pine Lake to take over the store.

One day, when Doug was still in grade school, His mom just up and left. Gossip offered a number of scenarios and reasons for her departure, but Doug’s dad never gave credence to any of it. John Foster took his wife’s leaving hard and soon tried to find solace in the bottom of a bottle.

His son pretty much had to fend for himself. Doug could have used this as an excuse to cop out on life, instead, he was determined to make the liquor store a success.

When they first met, Doug pushed the idea of boyfriend and girlfriend, but Julia resisted. She wasn't ready for another close relationship. The sting of Florida was too raw. Brad’s infidelity had crushed her, and sent her self-esteem through the floor. She fought depression and struggled with anxiety if a man showed any signs of affection. Doug must have sensed her resistance, but she was still surprised when he backed off and agreed to just be friends. Their platonic relationship seemed to work fine, she slowly built a trust in him and although she learned to enjoy doing things together, she wasn’t ready to take it beyond that. Date? No, in her mind, this wasn’t a date. ulia parked in front of the bank and hurried inside. There were lines in front of every teller. A lady was telling anyone listening, “Sheriff Joe has had no luck identifying the man in the coma. He suspects foul play but doesn't have a crime, a motive, or any suspects. As far as Joe can tell, the guy isn’t a missing person, nobody’s looking to arrest him and the FBI said it would be a month before they would have any information on the guy's fingerprints.”

A man in the next line laughed. “I heard Ole Joe was so mad when he heard that, he kicked the dog and stomped out of the office.”

Julia chuckled as she peered ahead to see what was taking so long with the guy at the window.

People continued to discuss the man’s plight. One lady wondered if this could be connected to the Kennedy assassination. “It’s only been six months since that happened,” she said. No one thought that, but one man was sure it had to be a drug deal gone badly.

“That’s highly unlikely,” said a nurse in uniform, who claimed to have been in the operating room when the man was brought in. “He didn't have any drugs in his system.” She praised Doc Richardson. “For a small town general practitioner, he did a swell job of patching him up.”

Julia finally made it to the window and withdrew twenty dollars. She frowned at the single digit account balance in her passbook. Somehow, she’d have to make this stretch through the week. riday night was Julia's night to relax and enjoy herself. It was the same for most locals. They’d throw back a few beers, scarf down a plate of fish, and sleep in late Saturday morning.

A night out at Teddy's was easy to dress for, nothing fancy. Most people would be in their work clothes. Julia chose a white blouse, blue jeans and white canvas shoes. She tied a blue handkerchief around her neck, and moved the knot to the side. A well-scrubbed face, pink lipstick and a matching blue ribbon to hold her ponytail achieved her intended look. ars lined both sides of the street in front of the tavern. Julia found a place to park around the corner. Loud music and voices drifted into the street long before she reached the front door.

“Jules! Over here!” Doug yelled as she walked in.

Cigarette smoke hung in a heavy gray cloud. The sweet smell of pizza covered the faint odor of stale beer. People laughed and talked loud trying to be heard over the jukebox that was cranked up to the max. No one seemed interested in the TV, where helicopters were evacuating wounded from another bloody skirmish in Vietnam. The crowd, standing two and three deep at the bar forced Julia to weave her way to the pool table, where Doug was lining up a shot. The cue ball sent the nine ball to the corner pocket.

“Dang! No way does that ball not go in.” He leaned the cue against the wall, and pulled out a chair for Julia at a nearby table. “What would you like to drink?”

“A draft will be fine.” She hung her purse on the back of the chair and took a seat.

Lonnie stood from the table and nodded her way. “Hey, looking good.” He picked up the cue and looked at Doug. “Is it my shot?”

“Yeah, you've got solids.” Doug returned a few minutes later with a pitcher of beer and a frosted glass. “Fred called. He can’t find his keys. I’ve got to run over and lock up the store.”

“That's okay. I'll wait here with Lonnie.” Julia poured herself a beer.

Doug cupped his hands around his mouth. “I’ll be right back,” he yelled.

Lonnie backed off his shot and raised the cue. “You trying to mess me up?” He repositioned and finished the stroke. “Dammit, I’dah made it the first time if he hadn’t yelled.” He laid the cue on the table, and poured himself a beer. “When are you guys gonna get hitched?”

“What?” Julia choked on the beer. “Why would you ask that?” The question sucked the air from her lungs. “Has Doug said something?”

“Nah, but you guys spend so much time together, I just thought it’s about time you tied the knot. I know he’s crazy about you.”

“Doug and I are really good friends. He…, I…, we’ve never talked about…it”

“It’s none of my business. I just figured you’d make a good couple. Doug’s a great guy, a hard worker, and he owns two businesses.”

Just the word marriage sent Julia into panic mode. She had no answer. “Yes, but can he fly and lift tall buildings in a single bound?” She bit her lip, angry that she had said something so silly.

Lonnie gave her a flat stare.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…I was just trying to be funny.” She felt herself cascading down into the grips of anxiety. Her throat constricted, her breathing became short and shallow. She kneaded her numb fingers. “Shit,” she murmured as the feeling of dread momentarily consumed her.

Lonnie got up, drifted over to the jukebox and dropped in a coin.

“Sorry about that,” Doug said throwing a leg over the back of the chair. “By the time I got there, he’d found his keys. They had fallen behind the counter.”

The jukebox came alive and Julia used the distraction of bass notes bouncing off the walls to alter her thought pattern and conquer her feelings.

Doug grabbed his glass and the pitcher. “It’s the weekend. Let's go in back and order up a pizza!”

Lonnie returned and downed his beer. “You guys go ahead. I’m going to make it an early night. See ya, around.”

“You don’t have to go,” Julia protested. “I’m sorry for what I said.”

“I shouldn’t have stuck my nose in your business, you guys enjoy yourselves.”

Doug led the way to the back dining room. A couple were just getting up and Doug moved quickly to claim the table. He cleaned the remaining dishes, and pulled out the chair. “Should we get another pitcher, or would you like something else?”

“This is plenty of beer for me. I'll have a root beer with the pizza.”

Doug waved to the waitress and put in their order before settling back, and taking a swallow of beer. “What was that about between you and Lonnie?”

“He asked if we were getting married. What have you been telling him?”

Doug leaned forward. “I haven’t said a thing, but it is an interesting question.”

“I thought we agreed to be friends.”

“Hell, that was two years ago. You said you needed time to get settled...that your schedule didn’t allow time for a relationship. Are you any closer to being settled? Being friends is great but will we never be more than that?”

“It’s complicated. I mean …” Her mouth dried and she had trouble forming the words.

“I guess I would like to know where I stand,” he said, taking a drink of beer.

“It’s not you, it’s me. I probably should have told you long ago.”

“Told me what?”

Julia straightened in her chair. “I left Florida to escape a bad relationship. I was crushed. When I got here, I was a wreck, I hated all men, I just wanted to run away and hide.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Ashamed, I guess.” Julia took a hanky from her purse. “Silly, right?” She dabbed the corner of her eyes. “I find the guy in bed with my roommate and I’m the one feeling ashamed.

“You can’t judge everyone by that one jerk.”

“I know, but on top of that, my dad cheated on my mother. He broke her heart and mine, too. That’s how I ended up in Florida. After the divorce, mom and I went to live with my grandparents.”

“It’s a trust thing right?” Doug took a swallow of his beer. “I don’t know if you knew, but my mom up and left when I was in fifth grade. No good bye, no see you later, nothing. For the longest time I blamed myself for her leaving. It’s hard to put your trust in people because you never want to hurt like that again.”

Julia nodded as she wiped the tears that had gathered on her cheeks.

Doug took her hand. “You know I think the world of you, but I won’t force the situation. If it's meant to be, it will be. Don’t worry about Lonnie, I’ll have a talk with him. Did he say anything else?”

“He thinks you’re some kind of Superman.” She couldn’t believe she was still using that silly analogy.

Doug fell back laughing. “More like Batman and Robin. We grew up together. He’s been my best friend since first grade. As kids, every day was a new adventure for us, some days, we'd be at to the swimming beach terrorize the girls or we'd be catching crabs under the bridge by the falls. For spending money we’d go night crawler hunting.”

“Night crawler hunting?” Julia giggled. “Is that a joke?”

“Nah, night crawlers, big worms, you know, for fishing. My dad would pay us a penny a worm for all that we could bring him. Sometimes we would have three or four hundred in our pail. Those worms bought a lot of candy bars and cokes.”

“How did you hunt them?”

“When it rains, they crawl out of the ground and go slithering in the grass. We’d shine our flashlights and grab them before they had a chance to get back in their hole.”

“You picked them up with your fingers? Yuck!”

Doug laughed. “That’s enough about worms. Have I told you about the sailboat? You should see it.” His voice rose a full octave.

Julia welcomed a change in conversation. “You mean the one you bought last year? You called it a bird or something.”

“It’s a Snipe. You won't recognize it. I’ve had it in the icehouse since right after the first of the year. I stripped it down to bare wood, sanded the hell out of it and put on three coats of this new urethane paint. It's bright red and the hull is as smooth as glass. It should slide through the water like a greased eel.”

“So you think you’ll do better this year? I don't mean to burst your bubble, but I seem to recall you came in last place in every race last year.”

“I know, but I had Lonnie crewing for me. He'd never sailed before and I never skippered a boat. We were like Frick and Frack out there.”

“I thought you told me you didn't do well because your boat was too heavy.”

“That was part of it. A wood boat is heavier, but it was the boat to beat before everyone switched to fiberglass. We may still be a bit heavy, but we’ll overcome that with superior skill.”

Julia failed to hold back the laugh that exploded out of her mouth. “Superior skill! Those lakeshore kids have been sailing all their lives. How do you think you’re going to beat them at their own game?”

“Johnny Kinard.”

“Kinard? The lakeshore kid? Isn't he the one that's been in trouble with the law?”

“Yeah, petty larceny and stuff, but he's one hell of a sailor. Back a few years ago he won practically every race. With him on the tiller and me on jib, I think we have a chance to win a race or two.”

Julia smiled. “So, when is the maiden voyage of this new and improved boat?”

“I'm hoping to have it ready by mid-June, but for sure I will be in the big trophy race on the fourth of July. It’s going to be so neat.”

Julia laughed. I don’t know why you get so fired up about sailing. That’s a lakeshore thing.” “That’s just it. They think they own it. None of us town kids had parents with the financial wherewithal to buy us a sailboat. It was strictly by chance, that I got to ride along on that E scow. That one time was so fantastic I was hooked. I’m still in high school, working in the store, when this guy comes in and buys a bunch of sodas and things. He looks out the window, sees the wind raising havoc with the trees and asked if I’d like to go sailing. ‘It’s going to be a wild ride out there,’ he said. ‘We could use the extra ballast.’ E’s are those long flat bottom sailboats. They normally carry a crew of four or five and will give you, the ride of your life.”

Doug lean forward. “It was great. I loved everything about the competition. I love the exhilaration of the craft accelerating silently through water and feeling the raw energy of wind forcing its will against the billowed canvas. Every Saturday thereafter, I’d cruise along Chicago Avenue on my bicycle hoping for another chance to sail. Those lakeshore guys weren’t happy having a townie hanging around, chasing after their sisters. They made their message loud and clear, but I could never shake my desire to sail.”

The waitress set the pizza and drinks on the table.

“I never realized that you were this passionate about it.” Julia put a slice of pizza on her plate. “You never talked that much about it.”

“There’s nothing to talk about unless I can win a race.” The table went silent as they gave their undivided attention to the cheesy pastry.

The bar room cleared some when they came out of the dining room. “Would you like a little Crème de Menthe?”

Julia put her hands to her stomach. “I'm too full. I think I am ready to call it a night.”

Doug took her hand and walked her to her car. “Don’t pay attention to Lonnie, just friends is fine… but if you ever change your mind, just let me know.” Julia smiled. “Thanks, and thanks for the pizza.” She got in her car. “I’m looking forward to seeing your boat.” She gave him a big smile and drove off. She had to admit, Doug would be a real catch for any girl. Maybe she was being foolish. Unless she wanted to be an old maid, she would have to give dating and romance another try. She felt the knot in her stomach tighten. The mere thought of kissing a guy scared the pants off her; consecrating a marriage would be near impossible.


Her Curiosity Continues

Julia came out of a sound sleep. Sunshine poked around the shade and sent a splash of light up the wall. She rolled over, stared at the ceiling and wondered what she would do today. She punched up her pillow and soaked up the warmth left in her blanket. The man in the coma stoked her curiosity, and although she cautioned herself about doing something foolish, she dressed, grabbed a piece of toast and went out the door. Jumping down the two steps off her back porch, the nip in the morning air halted her in mid-step as goose bumps bristled the hair on both arms. Going back in the house, she grabbed her sweatshirt jacket from the clothes tree, flipped up the hood and made a dash to the car.

Julia pushed the hood off her head as she scurried down the empty corridor. The hospital hadn’t come to life yet. The staff change was still an hour away and it was much too early for visitors. Horace, the elderly gent with the kind face and full head of gray hair sat at the front desk. He looked up from his newspaper and removed the glasses that hung on the end of his nose. “Julia, so nice to see you, are you working today?”

“Ah...” Julia searched for an answer. “No, I left my jacket here yesterday,” she fanned the bottom of the garment, “I just came to pick it up.” She came around the desk. “I haven’t talked to you in a long time, mind if I sit for a while?”

Horace folded his paper. “By all means, be my guest. Weekends are pretty quiet around here.”

Julia sat. “So what's going on, anything new?”

“Not much, same old stuff. People get sick, they come in, they get well and they go home.”

“What about...?”

“Who, our mystery guest? Still in a coma. He's doing well, breathing on his own, but showing no signs of waking up.”

“Have they identified him, yet?” “Nope! The sheriff was here a while ago. He’s fit to be tied, he's checked every which way he can think of, but can’t find a thing on this guy. He’s come up empty at every turn. Joe wondered why this guy’s family hasn’t come looking for him.”

“Is he still in Intensive Care?”

“They moved him to two-oh-four. He’s no trouble. He just lays there.”

Julia stood. “I guess I will be on my way. You have a wonderful day.”

Horace opened his paper. “Thanks, and you do the same.”

At the end of the hall Julia stopped, looked back to make sure the old gent still had his nose in the newspaper and scooted up to the second floor. There was no one at the nurse’s station and two-oh-four was just across the hall. Taking one last glance up and down the hallway, she rushed through the door.

In the dimly lit room, it was difficult to get a good look, but the man appeared to be resting peacefully. The machines and monitors hooked to him blinked and beeped in an odd cadence. Julia took a step closer. His head was heavily bandaged and the only features visible were the tip of his nose, his mouth and chin. She leaned over to get a closer look when the sound of voices froze her to the floor. The fear of being discovered sent blood racing through her veins like hot lava. As the voices moved closer panic gripped her. There was no escape, and no feasible place to hide. Her eyes focused on the door. “Dear God, please don’t let them come in here. “Her prayer went unanswered when a spear of light shot across the terrazzo floor as the door opened. A woman pushed a scrub bucket into the room and kicked down the doorstop. She plunged the mop up and down a couple of times as another gal pushed in a cart of cleaning supplies. Julia held her breath. She had the presence of mind to duck behind the door and was somewhat concealed by it being propped open.

Pressing the handle to squeeze out the excess water, the mop lady began swabbing the floor. The cart lady turn on the bathroom light and began wiping the back of the toilet. “No one seems to know what to do with this guy,” she said, her voice echoing in the tiled room. “The administrator would like to free up this bed. He said the hospital has done everything it can for him.”

“So, what are they going to do?” asked the mop lady.

“Nobody’s got an answer for that,” said the cart lady, her words partially drowned out by the toilet flushing. “The hospital would like to push the problem off on the county. The county treasurer is balking, says there ain’t money in the budget to take care of him. The poor guy has become a political football, and everyone is trying to kick him to the other side.”

The mop lady put the mop in the pail and pushed it out of the room. “You about done in there?”

“Just need to give the mirror a once over.” The woman threw her towel on the cart and stripped off her rubber gloves.

The mop lady held the door and used her foot to bring up the stop.

Julia tried to hold her breath, but the door pressing against her cause her let a puff of air escape through her nose. The woman leaned her head back and stared in Julia’s face.

The woman screamed.

Julia flipped up her hood, partially covering her face and pushed her way past the woman. She tore out of the room and descended the stairs two and three at a time, not stopping until she reached her car. She was long gone before anyone knew what had happened.

Arriving back at her place, she slumped in the seat. “I can’t believe I was so stupid?” She pounded on the steering wheel. “What was I thinking? If those women recognized me, I’m dead. What do I say? Oh sorry…I was just curious. They will think I’m some kind of nut case.” Curious or not, she was not about to try anymore stupid stunts like that.


Life Moves On

Gladys Iverson started the Glen Nursing Home. Raised in Pine Lake, she had been a big city nurse at Chicago General until her mother had a stroke. Her dad had passed a few years earlier, so it was left to Gladys to come home and take care of mom. In an effort to generate income, Gladys converted the family farmhouse into a nursing home catering to patients requiring around the clock care.

The big two-story colonial house had a covered porch on three sides and sat on five acres overlooking Pine Lake.

The name, The Glen, came from the wooded ravine drive leading up to the house.

When Gladys' mom died, she sold the home to a group of local businessmen and returned to her big city job. The group offered Nora Jensen, an ER nurse, the manager's job. The Glen became Nora's whole life, especially after Duke, her live-in boyfriend, passed away four years ago. Nora was working the emergency room at the hospital the night they brought Duke in. He had been bowling with the guys and suffered a massive heart attack. He flat lined on the way to the hospital and no amount of effort could bring him back.

Nora worked days. Carol, a recent graduate from nursing school, worked swing, and Julia covered midnight to eight in the morning. On the weekends, Nora brought in a couple of her retired nurse friends to take care of things. For Julia, it was not only her place of employment, but also her extended family.

Julia hung her jacket on the rack behind the front desk. Carol busily wrote in a patient’s folder. Without looking up she asked, “Did you have a nice weekend?”

Julia muffled a chuckle with a snort. “Yeah fine, just went by too fast. How about you?”

“I heard you had all the excitement the other night.”

“Those sirens scared the bajeebers out of everyone. I ran my butt off trying to keep everyone calm. Have you heard anything? Have they found out who the guy is?”

“Not that I’ve heard, but they did have something strange happen. The cleaning ladies said there was someone hiding in the guy’s room.”

“Do they know…?”

“The women said it all happened so fast, they didn’t get a good look and couldn’t say whether it was a guy or girl.”

Julia picked up a folder and pretended to study it. I hope they don’t talk to Horace, he’s the only one who knows I was there.

“It's crazy, especially here in Pine Lake, Dullsville, USA,” Carol said. “The mystery surrounding this guy get weirder by the day. Maybe they’ll know something at Teddy’s.” Carol stood and gathered her things. “I hope you have a peaceful night.”

“What is the attraction of sitting in a tavern at one in the morning?” Julia asked. “What kind of husband do you hope to find sitting on a barstool? Someone, who will beat you up, spend your money, and break your heart?”

“I'm not looking for a husband. I just need a couple of drinks to relax me. I'm too keyed up to go home and straight to bed.”

“A warm glass of milk helps me,” Julia offered.

“Eck, I’d puke.” Carol put on her jacket. “See you tomorrow night.”

Julia waved. I should be the last person to give advice on picking out a husband.

Her first order of business, to see that everyone was bedded down. She especially enjoyed caring for the two gentlemen at the home. Robert was her charmer. When he got better he promised to take her dancing and show her a night she would never forget. Robert was in his eighties, his dancing days were over, but she humored him and told him she would be ready when he was.

George had dementia. Julia never knew what to expect when she went into his room. Sometimes he’d be wandering around the room in his birthday suit. She’d have to corral him, get him into his pajamas and back into bed. Normally, he’d balk, and put up a fight, tonight he complied without a fuss. The rest of the shift went smoothly and it turned out to be just another routine night at the Glen.

The next three weeks flew by. The warm sunny weather was like money in the bank. People streamed into town, stores and restaurants were crowded, and the lake gave up bag limits of lake trout, walleye and northern pike. A Green Bay TV station came down and did a segment for their sports report. Once it aired, Doug's phone rang off the wall with request for his guide services.

Julia too, found herself immersed in spring-type activities. Her yard had sprung to life. The soft yellow crocus in her front planter faded as the tulips burst forward in a carnival of color. The long cold winter was a distant memory.

Someone New For the Glen he first shards of light came through the front door glass and reflected off the highly polished floor. It was time for the early risers to wash, brush their teeth and be ready for their breakfast tray. Julia checked her watch as she finished with the last patient. Walking to the front, she was surprised to see Nora behind the desk. “What are you doing here this early?” “Big things are happening. We're getting a new patient, the man in the coma.” “What!” Julia spun in her tracks. Did she hear Nora correctly? “They're bringing him here?”

“Yep! I was at a meeting yesterday afternoon with the doctors, the hospital administrator and the county treasurer. The administrator needs the hospital room for regular patients. The treasurer, that chintzy bugger, wants to save money on the cost of his care.”

“That’s wonderful. Can we do it? I mean…are we capable of taking care of him?”

“The doctors believe we can. They’ll bring all the equipment and monitors with him. One of their nurses will instruct us on his feeding, how to handle waste, and things like that. They want me totally involved with his care, so most of the stuff, like his feeding and hygiene, will be taken care of on day shift.”

Julia could hardly contain herself. “Will there be things I will need to do?”

“Yes, they want us to monitor him around the clock so you will be checking his vitals and logging them every hour.”

“I can do that,” Julia said. “When is he coming?”

“This afternoon,” Nora said. “I'll have Carol fill you in. If you encounter any problems, you are to call me immediately. Understood?”

A million thoughts bounced around Julia’s brain as she tried to visualize things she would do once he arrived.

“Julia!” Nora cut into her thoughts. “Girl, you’d better get your head out of the clouds. Those people are counting on us and I promised them there wouldn't be any problems.”

“Sorry, just tell me what to do. You don't have to worry about me.”

“That's exactly what worries me.” Nora settled in the desk chair. “He should be bedded down by the time you get here tonight.” ulia’s alarm went off at eleven. Her pulse rate kicked up a notch, sending a shot of adrenalin through her body. She had trouble containing her excitement and was preened, dressed, and out the door much quicker than normal.

In the Glen parking lot, she reminded herself to remain cool. The last thing she wanted was to look unprofessional. She rubbed her stomach and hoped the butterflies would go away.

Carol looked up at the clock. “You're early.”

“I thought you could tell me everything I needed to do, you know, for the man. He's here isn't he?”

“Room Six. There isn't a whole lot you’ll need to do for him. He sleeps like a baby.”

“I thought we had to keep track of his vitals.”

Carol handed Julia a clipboard. “We do, blood pressure, pulse, blood oxygen and temperature. It all registers on the one machine just above his head. Nora wants it done once an hour.”

“Is that all?” Julia tried to hide her disappointment. “I guess I thought there would be more to do.”

“Actually, it’s a piece of cake, he’s a lot less trouble than our other patients.” Carol stood up. “Unless one of those machines starts whistling or banging, he'll just sleep the night away.”

“Whistling... Banging...?”

“In that case, you call Nora.” Carol stood and put on her sweater. “As long as you are here, I'm going to take off, okay? Do you want me to show you the machine before I go?”

Julia sensed that Carol was in a hurry to get to Teddy's for her nightcap. “No, I'm sure I will know which one it is.”

“You can't miss it. It's the one with all the red numbers. It's right above his head.” Carol grabbed her purse and hustled to the door.

Julia stood for a moment, not sure what to do first.

Carol’s last entry was at eleven, she decided to do her first monitoring. Entering the room, she took note of the equipment that surrounded the patient and zeroed in on the one with the red numbers. She picked his hand off the bed and studied his breathing pattern. It was slow and easy, no sign of pain or stress. She lifted the covers and traced the feeding tube going into his stomach. The catheter and temporary colostomy were new to her. It was not a part of her practical nurse’s training.

She squeezed his arm. The muscle seemed surprisingly firm. She expected more atrophy. She bent and looked closely at his face. There was a hint of bruising on his forehead and around his eyes but very little swelling. Parting his hair, the sutures had healed nicely. “Once you get a regular haircut, those scars would never show.” She straightened the bed linens.

Julia judged him to be six-feet tall, between a hundred eighty and a hundred ninety pounds. His well-proportioned body reminded her of an athlete or someone who got a fair amount of exercise. She stepped back and smiled. “You’re quite the handsome fellow aren't you?”

“I guess I better take care of business.” She took the cap off her pen and read off the numbers: Blood pressure, one twenty seven over eighty two, pulse, sixty nine, blood oxygen, ninety eight, temperature, ninety eight point seven. She patted his arm. “Those are some pretty good numbers.” She looked for a response, but none came.

Julia went about her normal routine of tending to the other patients, but at the top of each hour, she was at his bedside. There were only miniscule changes in the readings. On her final visit, she lingered for an extra few minutes. “Who are you?” she asked. “What happened to you? Why hasn't someone come forward? Don't you have family... friends... anyone who's missing you?” Julia straightened his covers. “So many unanswered questions, and you just lie there, sleeping peacefully.” Weeks went by with no change in the man’s condition.


Her Special Patient

Julia’s alarm went off at eleven. Instead of getting up, she turned it off and fell back to sleep. She woke thirty minutes later, jumped out of bed, and hustled to get ready.

“Damn,” she said as she pulled on her sweater and skipped along trying to get her foot into her shoe. “What a dumb thing to do.” Grabbing her purse, she stumbled out the door.

The drive to the Glen normally took ten to twelve minutes. She’d kept an eye on her rearview mirror hoping the police hadn’t decided to cruise the area. The last thing she needed was a speeding ticket and her name and age in the newspaper. Tonight she made it in the near record time of eight minutes.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Julia shouted as she flew through the door. “I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“Not a problem, but I will hold you to it.” Carol shuffled a stack of folders. “I just finished the updates, anyway.”

“How's our sleepyhead doing today?”

Carol glanced at his folder. “No change that I can see. It makes you wonder if he will ever wake up. I’d sure like to know what the hell happened to him.”

“Me, too. Anything I should know about here?” Julia asked, watching Carol gather her things.

“Nope, everything’s copasetic. Have a great weekend, I’ll see you on Monday.” Carol waved and went out the door.

Julia picked up the clipboard. “Time to record some numbers.”

Walking into the man’s room, she gazed at each machine. Everything seemed to be working properly. She read off the red numbers and copied them down. “Your vitals look good,” she told him. “If you were awake you'd be in the pink.”

When they brought the man to the Glen, he seemed so helpless. Julia immediately assumed a self-imposed responsibility for his care. She would tend to the other residents, making sure their needs were taken care of, and then, for the last hour or two of her shift, hurry to his room.

At first, she just sat and talked to him, keeping him abreast of what was going on in town and the world. She also used these nightly sessions to discuss the things that weighed heavily on her mind, notably the events that caused her to leave Florida. It was almost like going to confession. “It may not change your life,” she caught herself saying, “but up until now I couldn’t even think about Florida without the fear of plunging into a full blown panic attack.”

During one of those evening sessions, he seemed restless. His arm twitched and Julia massaged it to quiet him down. Massages soon turned into nightly therapy sessions. No one told her to do it. It wasn't prescribed. She figured it would keep him in relatively good shape for when he woke up. It was all stuff she learned at the hospital working with Dr. Morgan.

It was near five in the morning when Julia finished with the other patients. She hummed as she entered his room. “Okay, Buster, time for some therapy.” She took his hand and lifted his arm straight in the air, moved it across his chest and then straight up before laying it by his side.

Again and again, she moved his arm in this manner.

“How was your day?” Not waiting for an answer, “Mine was a disaster.” She proceeded to discuss how one crazy thing after another had befallen her. Without missing a word, she continued to move his arm, folding, bending and stretching it in all directions.

Julia enjoyed the nightly sessions. Even though their conversations were one-sided, she giggled, “You’re the perfect man for me. You don’t interrupt and you never disagree with a thing I say.”

Making sure the arm was comfortably by his side, she walked to the other side of the bed and began the same ritual with the other arm. She was gentle but made sure each movement flexed and toned his muscles. Finished with the arms, she moved to his legs, going through a regimen of exercises with each one.

She took a step back and looked for any sign of change, any movement, but saw none. Everything seemed normal, as he appeared to be resting peacefully. She covered him and turned out the light. On her way to the front desk, she peeked in each room to make sure everyone was okay. She picked up each folder and wrote a few comments about the patient. When she got to his, she simply wrote, NO CHANGE.

“Ready to start your weekend?” Nora asked, as she threw her purse on the desk.

“You bet,” Julia shot back. “I have three hours at the hospital but after that, I'm ready to live it up.”

“Are you still helping Dr. Morgan?”

“Yes, I love it. It's so rewarding seeing the improvement people make as they get better and stronger.”

“Speaking of improvement, any change in room six?”

“No. It's such a shame. He just lies there.”

“He can't be alone in the world. Somebody has got to be missing him. Where is his family?”

Julia took her sweater from the hook. “Someday he is going to wake up and tell us everything we’re dying to know.”

“I hope you’re right.” Nora headed for the kitchen. “Right now I’m dying for a cup of coffee.”

“See ya Monday!” Julia said on her way out the door. She had never given any thought of him dying. She shook her head, assuring herself, he was in too good of shape and had vitals too strong for that to happen. Regardless, a chill went up her spine.


Was It All A Dream?

It was almost five weeks since the mystery patient arrived from the hospital. Julia had marked the days off on the calendar. He was her special patient and made her eager to come to work.

Julia bid Carol good night. She took a moment to glance at each patient's chart before making her rounds. After restraining George in bed with an extra sheet, she stepped into her charmer’s room. “Good night Robert, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” It was the same salutation she gave him every night. She turned out the light and closed his door. So far, the night held no surprises.

Glancing at her watch, she noted the time, four forty- five. She turned and entered the room where the young man lay in a deep sleep. She studied the monitor with the red numbers. His blood pressure numbers were somewhat elevated from what she had charted the previous hour. In the many nights she spent with him, she was in tune with his breathing pattern, tonight it was different, quicker, with deeper breaths. The average person wouldn’t have noticed the difference, but Julia did.


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