As long-time readers know, if I “go dark” right in the middle of a narrative, it’s a bad attack of RealLife.  This was; again.  And, it was onto someone who does not deserve it:  God, the Fates… someone resents tf out of our naming our eldest dog Lucky Star.  At eight years old diagnosed with sarcoma; two nasal surgeries followed by radiation.

Now, less than six months later, his breathing becomes labored.  A week later, he is weak on his front legs.  Monday, he cannot walk.  Vet consult to consult to consult:  I shan’t bore you with details.  It might be a slipped cervical disc in his neck.  Anesthesia for an MRI/surgery has a good chance of killing him due to his congestive heart disease.  For  now, we’re throwing prednisone at the wall and hoping it sticks.

After eight hours in the vet ER Tuesday, I’m not really in the creative mode.  Fortunately, after my Lenten Exercises, it’s difficult to stop.  I was able to put together what’s below the fold over two days.  I’ve a quarter-page of hand-written notes about how to wrap up Part One.  My wife and girls are off to a major, but local, swim meet this weekend; we three old, dying, dogs shall sit about the house and eye one another.  I’ll type, too.  I appreciate everyone for putting up with me.  I’ll do better, soon.

“Nichole!” Nancy exclaimed as she walked out her front door, surprised to see her friend so early. “Coming along, today?”

“Yes.” Nichole saw the poorly suppressed smile on the old woman as she turned to lock the door.

“Then lend a frail old lady your arm for our walk!”

Nichole glanced left and right along the street.

“I see no such person here? Is she along later?”


Nancy walked her left hand lightly on Nichole’s right arm. The sun kept breaking through the clouds, weaving complex shadows on their world, below.

“May I ask why?”

“I spoke with the unit last week. Something Scout Reilly said… that what your son did was from God. A miracle.”

Nichole stared straight up into the sun.

“I understand the transcendent. I do not understand God.”

“No one does, dearie! Likely not even His mother!” Nancy laughed again. Nichole had on occasion been a little jealous of her joy. “Ever seen a bird fly with one wing?”

“What?” she was confused at the turn of topic into avians. “Of course not…”

“You think you’re gonna get up where you’re lookin,’” she glanced up and away from the sun, “with one wing?”

“’One wing…’” Nichole echoed.

“You’re a level-headed, sensible girl; why, look at what you’ve done to my John!” Another laugh.

“But you’ll never know the Lord just through reason. You need one more wing… ah! Here we are!”

They’d just arrived at her church. Nichole stopped them.


“Faith, my friend. You need to find your faith. Come on!”

Rumors of the special girl in the City had plenty of time to permeate even this far south. At least in these stories she was still human. The fiancé of her classmate, John Smith, who lived miles further south, had asked her Intended if it was really true that he went to school with “the Japanese supergirl?!”

History becomes legend; legend becomes myth. She had learned that in her reading of the author, Tolkien. A reasonable man who had faith.

She sang their songs. Listened. Knelt. She felt and understood nothing. Which she shared with Nancy on their walk back.

“Give it time, dear, give it time!” For all their pretence, she was a little winded. Nichole slowed their pace.

“My husband, John Senior, was a cradle Catholic, but by the time I’d married him he’d not been inside a church in a dozen years. I changed all that.”

“Is it, then, the responsibility of women to propagate your faith?”

“Good Lord, no!” Nancy stopped abruptly and crossed herself. “For centuries men, thousands of men, spread God’s Word over the world at the cost of their lives! Women, too, certainly, but not like men.”

She shook her head.

“It was only in the second half of the last Century when the Magisterium went insane and betrayed Holy Mother Church.”

She started walking again.

“I am convinced that what’s happened to Europe and my country are a direct result of all that: the religious abandoned God, so the people, leaderless, wandered away.”

“Do you know, my young friend?” her humor seemed to be returning. “What happens when people don’t believe in something?”


“They’ll believe in anything. Home, again!” She rummaged for her keys. “I won’t ask you for tea, but I will for company.”

“Thank you, Nancy. I’d love to talk more!”

Inside, Nancy set a small kettle onto the stove.

“I can’t tempt you with a snack, either?” she asked.

“Thank you, no.”

“For someone who’s so active, you really should look to your health more!” Nancy scolded her gently. “One of these days you’re going to run out of all that youthful energy!”

“Already did that once,” Nichole muttered.

“What was that dear?” she asked, pouring some of the heated water into a teacup.

“Nothing. Shall we sit out back on the deck?” Nichole took a step in the direxion of the door, only to stop once seeing the first drops of a rain shower. “Or here at the kitchen table?”

“Portland weather!” Nancy smiled, sitting. “This is our punishment for enjoying the walk earlier!”

She took a small sip and turned the cup just so.

“Found out more about what my John was on about?”


Nichole briskly recounted her visit with the cavalry and the interesting person she got to meet, after. At his name, Nancy’s head came up sharply.

“John’s mentioned him. He doesn’t like him.” She said.

“That also seemed to be the opinion of Scout Reilly.” Nichole paused. “Besides his job, is there something else I don’t understand that makes them think this way?”

“I don’t know if it’s how they’re thinking, dearie,” she said, finishing her first cup and standing to get a refill. “It’s probably more of a feeling, especially with Tim.”


“Tim Reilly.”

“Oh. I didn’t know.”

Nancy whirled about.

“You went through all that at The Dalles and you never learned his name?!”

“His surname is Reilly,” Nichole made a tiny shrug. “He never volunteered his given name.”

“John wasn’t kidding: you really are not from here, are you?”

“Nope!” Nichole gave Nancy a wink as she sat back down.

“Anyway. Feelings. John said he feels Bakke is basically a bully; a thug.”

“Coming from John – ”

*Crack!* went the teacup, so abruptly did she set it down.

“My John can be trouble and a bruiser, but he was never a bully!”

Nichole updated her definitions. Older, she grew still and bowed in her chair.

“I am very sorry, Mrs. Brunelli. I have dishonored your son and you, his mother.”

Her face just off the tabletop, she expected a swat across the top of her head or a curt dismissal.

“John said, even though you don’t look it, you’re from Japan. True?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Said to the table.

“So English isn’t your first language?”

Well, no… but…

“No, ma’am.”

Nancy’s hand went to her shoulder and lifted her.

“A misunderstanding,” she said, taking a sip of her second cup, “between friends.”

“Of course.” Nichole made a slow blink and tried on a smile. Nancy returned it.

“So, Bakke may be a bully and/or a thug?” she said, returning to the point. “Implying?”

“Implying that he’ll suck up to the more powerful and crap all over anyone below him, heedless of the cost.”

Nichole considered the men aboard Kongo. Captain Hong’s detachment that crossed the river. Her fellow troopers in the cavalry.

“That does not seem to the type of man you want in a combat situation.” She carefully concluded.

Nancy slowly shook her head.

“No, it doesn’t.”

They both paused at the sound: engines were a rarity, but Nichole recognized the tiny motor’s whine immediately, from her adventure on her second day in Portland.

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