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Chest fo Hope Ch.7

The sun had been up for an hour, so had Pastor Miller. He had risen from his bed early this morning. Over a cup of coffee, and while he was rubbing down his rifle, he was thinking of the buck he had seen last week in the woods beside Taylor lake. Today's the day! That buck will be meat in my freezer, and the rack will look good on my wall. He thought while stirring his drink. Pastor Miller had heard the stories of the new owner, but he surmised anyone that could afford to buy a farm outright, surely had enough money to not stay around on a weekend. The guy's probably down in New Orleans looking at the sights. Besides, I'll be there and gone, before anyone knows about a thing.

That became the reason for him to be sitting on his hunting stand twenty feet up the side of an oak tree thirty minutes later. Another half hour passed, and Miller was wondering if all the repair noises might have scared the buck away. He could see the barn, and the pile of debris in the middle of the field. He also wondered why it had been placed there and not taken to the dump. His thoughts changed as he saw movement to his left. He slowly raised the rifle and peered into the scope, moving the rifle sight slowly back and forth. Finally, he saw the buck as it came around the trees, nearly fifty yards away. Miller took his time, he sat and waited for the creature to come closer and find the salt lick he left last week. He was getting a bit giddy, as he thought of the look, on Brother Johnson's face, when he discovered this buck's head mounted on his wall. It didn't matter to Pastor Miller that hunting-season, was more than two months away, nor, that he was standing on private property. Why should it? The sheriff was a member of the church, or even better, the Club.

Now the buck came closer to the lick. He stopped and sniffed the breeze, as his head rose high above his shoulders, and his ears twitched. Miller saw everything through the scope. He thought to himself, A perfect kill, and began applying pressure to the trigger. Miller began to hear a high-pitched whine, and felt a rush of wind, as the dust and leaves blew about him. His vision through the scope went black. Then came the pain to his hands, as he dropped the rifle from the stand. It fired into the trees upon striking the trunk. Miller barely heard the shot, as he was being beaten around the head and ears by the wings of a raven. The bird clawed away at his shirt, as its beak found his arm for the third time. Then it launched itself from the tree stand. Miller stood and watched the large bird glide toward the buck, loud cawing erupted in its wake. The raven, and the buck turned, and in a fleeting dash, they disappeared into the thicket. Miller scrambled down the tree. He found his rifle broken in half at the base. The sound in his ears, reminded him of a swarm of angry bees. What in the hell was that? Miller wondered, as he picked up what was once his prized rifle, and cursed the bird, then the buck. He walked out of the trees to the edge of the field. As he reached the fence, Miller again heard a loud whirling whine increase, as the dust was coming up fast at him. He turned fully around, but saw nothing, except blowing leaves and debris of the whirlwinds.

Now, the wind changed. It descended from above where Miller stood. The sound almost deafening him, as it was slowly moving away. Miller crouched on the ground, with his hands over his ears and his eyes were shut tight. As the wind eased, he opened his eyes and looked up. He thought he was about to be attacked by the raven again, but his eyes finally focused on the large dark helicopter rising into the morning sky. Miller stood and looked again, he now saw two dark green helicopters, as they circled the farm. Where in the hell did those things come from? He asked himself, while climbing the fence next to his car. Matt Stone's truck came down the road and stopped as Stone yelled out, "That's something you don't see every day! Jolly Green Giants.” "Green what?” Miller asked staring at Stone. Matt laughed and pointed to the sky. “Must be Air Force birds? Marines have side weapons. Well, the fish are waiting for me, Bye.” The truck drove off and Miller watched, then caught the last silhouettes of the helicopters as they headed southwest. Air Force? What are Air Force helicopters doing landing on a farm in the middle of nowhere? They must be the reason for that bird going crazy. I think a talk with the sheriff is needed right now. Miller thought as he drove off to town.

Paul Hart Jr. passed Miller's car on the road from town. Paul noticed the car was going too fast, but figured it must be church business. As Paul pulled into the dirt drive, he noticed the freshly painted barn. He stared at the vacant space where the house had stood. Paul exited his car and walked to the barn. "Mister Oh. Are you in there?” He called out. "Enter.” Came the voice. Paul still had trouble distinguishing it from a thunderclap. Paul saw how the barn was finished, the yard was clean, and the chicken coop had been removed. As he entered the barn, he saw three large gray metal lockers, filling the first stalls. "Mister Oh, where are you?” Paul asked. "Back here, behind the last container.” Mister Ohs' voice called out.

Paul walked passed the first and second stalls. He managed to see that they were metal cargo containers, now as his eyes had chance to adjust. The first two were closed, but the third's double doors were opened wide. Paul peeked inside. It was lit by a battery lamp, mounted at the overhead. To the left, was a large assortment of clothing, shirts, pants, suits, and shoes lined the whole side. On the right, an assortment of work clothes nearly half way down. Paul then found clothing he’d only seen in the movies, or specials on television. Inside were capes, tunics, belts, and thigh high boots. The back wall contained large necklaces, rings, and some jewelry he couldn't place. Paul was ogling all this stuff when Mister Ohs' voice echoed in the chamber. "Paul, come here. I want to show you something.” Paul jerked and left the container, walking around the door and right into something large, white, and hard. Paul backed up as Mister Oh said, "Watch your step Paul!” He looked up to see the full back of Mister Oh, which was covered with a large white tunic. The neckline and mid arm cuffs were banded in a decorative design. Paul skirted around Mister Oh with a surveying eye. "Who's your tailor, Mister Oh? Is that some kind of artist smock?” "As an Ambassador, I must dress for my duties. That is what the letter stated which came with these containers. Madam President, had some things that I requested, brought by last night, the rest came by air a short time ago.” "By air? The closest airport is thirty miles away.” Paul was noticing Mister Ohs' right hand, with his finger going around and around. Paul observed the smile and said, "Helicopter. Right?” "You are coming along well as a sleuth young Paul. With the right amount of training you could replace the sheriff. Of course, that amount could be taught to you by breakfast.” "Now look, and tell me what you think.” Mister Oh said, as he pointed toward the easel with a sketch resting upon it. Paul moved closer and saw a drawing of an A-frame house. The picture was finished in a 3-D format, with front, side, and top views, neatly staged. Paul surveyed the floor and could only see chunks of charcoal scattered about. "You did this with only charcoal?” Paul asked, with amazement. "Sometimes, I do my best work with things I find lying about.” Mister Oh said with a wry smile on his face. "Nevertheless, tell me, what do you think of the house?” Paul studied the work. He contemplated the interior drawing and then the outer views. He studied the dimensions of the structure and realized that it was to be a large project. "It will do,” Paul said, simply. “It will do? Is that all you can say? It will do!” Mister Oh said, with growing irritation. "It’s great Mister Oh. It's the best designed house in the whole town. Really, I like it, a great deal.” Paul said and laughed. Mister Oh regarded Paul, then the picture, then back at Paul's impish look. The roar of laughter filled the barn. "Well-done Paul. It seems you have the art of a Scaldi also this day.” "That's the second time you said that word. What is a scaldi?”

Mister Oh motioned for Paul to follow him out of the barn, then he spoke, "A Scaldi is a seer, a miracle worker, a sorcerer with wit and words. Sometimes they use what they find in scrolls, or what is written on the wind. They have found themselves counsel to chiefs and kings. Only the best, hold counsel with the Gods.” Paul heard the last word but played it off as Mister Oh going off on a tangent again. They stopped by the vacant area in the yard. “I think this will be a good place to put the house.” Mister Oh said as he lifted some soil. Paul scanned the area and thought that the dimensions would cover the entire lot. Then Paul looked up, he gauged that the roof would be thirty feet high at the apex. "Yes. This will be a fine location for your house. What happened to the coop?” “With the construction, I thought it better to give it, with its occupants, to a farmer named Reynolds. He should find the addition quite useful.” “Did he ask for it?” Paul asked, and eyed the giants’ face. “Some needs are met without requests.” Mister Oh answered, as he viewed the buck prancing across the open field. Mister Oh crossed his arms over his massive chest and viewed the farm smiling. The smile left his face at Paul's next words. "I've got bad news, about Taylor.” "Go on." Mister Oh replied, lowering his arms. "It seems that Taylor lived alone. He was divorced. He did his drinking at the Bucks `N’ Ducks and belonged to the Hunt Club that frequents that bar.” “This might be of interest you. On their roster of club members, the sheriff's name appears with the pastor’s, and a certain Mister Johnson, you’ve had the pleasure of meeting.” “All in all, there's about sixty members. Some are from the oldest families in New Hope. Taylor was there, earlier that day, before he was found out here. I think the two go together somehow. However, I'm not sure how, or better, why.” "Good work, counselor. I think I have most of the pieces, only another person to talk to, and it will all be clear.” Mister Oh replied, staring out to the field. "Another, who?” Paul asked, staring in the direction of Mister Ohs' gaze. "Mister Matthew Stone!” Mister Oh answered, in a low harsh tone. Paul thought this odd and said, "I thought you talked to Mister Stone yesterday, he was supposed to stop by then.” Mister Oh didn't move a muscle when he replied, "Stone never came by, nor, have I seen him since the day at the market.” Paul saw Mister Ohs' mood wasn't getting any better. "He should be over at the lake right now. He's been going there, every chance he gets, or at least, that's what my father said.” Mister Oh moved then, as he turned quicker then Paul's eyes could follow. He headed toward the road, as Paul called out to him. "Mister Oh it's some ways. Do you want a ride?” "No! I need the exercise," Mister Oh replied, never looking back, then as an afterthought turned and added, "Bring yourself and your young lady here at sundown.” He then turned and marched down the road to the lake. Paul entered his car and started the engine. He was tempted to head toward the lake, but at the crossroad, he turned right and headed back to town. On the drive he thought, Diplomatic Immunity, does that cover murder?

Matt Stone was at the lake, relaxing in his truck, listening to a tape by, Queen. It's a Kind of Magic, began to play, as Matt turned the book page he was reading. The sun vanished over the truck as Matt looked up at Mister Odhinsunar. "You were to be at the farm yesterday.” Mister Ohs' voice was tense. "I took the message as a request, not an order,” Matt said, coldly. "Get out of this vehicle!” Mister Odhinsunar boomed. Matt opened the door, and as the big man backed to allow his passage, stood with the book in his hands. "You said we needed to talk, now Talk!” Mister Ohs' voice was low and his eyes were hard. "We could have talked before you went to the market, but you were too busy. Now it's time for you to read. It's time for me to be busy, Fishing!” Matt answered abruptly, as he walked to the back of his truck and began picking out his rod and tackle box. Mister Oh glared at this man, and thought to himself, Is this the boldest man in this world, or the biggest fool? Mister Oh thought his last choice was right, when Matt turned and handed him the book. "I believe you read Anglo. I'll be over there, if you have any trouble,” Matt said, as he walked over to the lake bank. Mister Oh started to throw the book through Stone, until he saw the cover. The big man lowered his arm and read the title out loud.

The Complete History of Taylorville, Louisiana, by Paul Hart and Benjamin Holiday. Mister Oh sat under a shady oak as he read the pages. Only twice, when Matt yelled, "Come back here!”, to a fish, did he stop. He read about the beginning of Taylorville, back in the Seventeen hundreds. He read of the people who had settled, and those who had moved on. Mister Oh read about the war of 1812, and how the town was used for supply storage, when the English were turned back at New Orleans. Then he read about the growth of the plantations, and of the slaves. He read how severely the Civil War decimated the land. Several area plantations were sacked then burned to the ground. When the war ended, so too, was the life style everyone knew. The town father, Mister Jedadiah Taylor, was a Colonel in the rebel army. After the surrender, he divided his holdings amongst the share croppers and freed slaves. He spent the rest of his life in the family mansion, staring out at the graveyard before the church. It was written, that after a time, the old man couldn't bear seeing the grieving families, as they placed flowers, on the graves of the fallen soldiers he’d commanded. One night, the old man got drunk. He torched the mansion and died in the ashes of that life which he’d lived. The mansion was on the combined Green and Price farms, occupying land next to the lake, that bear's his name. It was his wish to remain there till his death. Then it too, would pass to the families. After the old man died, the towns’ people came together, and decided to rename the place, New Hope. Most of the town was still comprising sharecroppers and ex-slaves. It would be almost six years, before the northerners would come, and place the people back into slavery, the slavery of money. Mister Odhinsunar slowly closed the book as he stood and walked over to Matt Stone. "Where is the church?” Mister Oh asked, softly. "Turn around. Due east. One click, can't miss it, if you look down.” Matt answered calmly, but never looked away from his lure as it wiggled on the surface of the still water. Mister Oh turned and walked in the direction stated. He crossed the roadway and came upon a large vacant field. It was overgrown and littered. Present were old cars, refrigerators, and things, that even Mister Oh, could not distinguish. Due to the bullet holes and rust. He kept to the bearings until he saw the platform. It rose two feet above the surface of the brush, where rotted steps lifted away from the rock walkway. He stepped up on the platform and it groaned under his weight, then he surveyed the surrounding land. All around the area, the scene was evident. Neglect was the word that kept coming to his mind, just complacent neglect . . . Then he remembered the passage about Colonel Taylor sitting day after day looking at the graveyard. "Graveyard!” Mister Odie jumped from the platform and walked toward the trees. He had paced for thirty yards when his foot hit something in the weeds. He slowly brushed the dirt and dust away from the stone and read the carvings: Steven Scott Born 1847 Died 1863 In defense of Confederate States of America

Mister Oh wandered about for the next hour, as he found ever more of the headstones. The look on his face was hollow. Even he could not take, the anguish of this place. He walked back to the lake and found Matt loading this truck with the fishing gear, and two large Bass. "Seen enough?” Matt questioned, as he turned around. Mister Oh gazing sadly out to the lake and asked, "How could they just leave them there, like that?” "I'm like you, a newcomer, to these parts. Why don't you ask the authors of the book? They have not only written about the history, they’ve played a major role in it lately.” Matt replied getting into his truck. As the truck backed away, Mister Oh brought his right hand down on the drivers’ door. Matt looked at the huge hand and then into the eyes of Mister Oh. "Who are you?” Mister Odhinsunar asked and probed the grey green eyes of the man. "Right now, I'm the closest thing you have to a friend in this town, except maybe Maureen. If I don't get these fish on ice, you'll be at the hospital, asking me about other things, you need to find out for yourself. Maureen doesn't like stale fish.” With that, Matt patted the huge hand and backed away. Mister Oh stood and watched the truck drive down the dirt road. His mind was racing with questions about this town, these people, their ways, and most of all, about two people, named Matt and Maureen Stone.

The sun was high, as the large ornate oaken door withstood the first heavy blow, from a huge right hand. By the third strike, the hinges were loosened, and the front of the house was beginning to shudder. The doors parted as the little man appeared. He was dressed in a dark suit and bow tie, peering up at the giant. "Good day sir. Whom may I tell, Judge Hart is calling?” The man showed deference in his manner and tone. "Mister Odhinsunar, the ambassador of Icelandia.” Mister Oh answered, while he considered the manor's servant. "Please wait inside sir. I will announce you.” The little man said, as he moved to open the door for the giant to enter. Mister Oh watched the man close the door and leave the foyer. In the study, light tapping was heard, as the little man opened the door. "The Ambassador of Icelandia, a Mister Odhinsunar, wishes to see the Judge.” "Bring him in Charles. Don't mind the clothing. He’s been working hard.” Judge Hart replied, still remembering their last visit together in his chambers. A few moments later, the door opened and, the Ambassador of Icelandia entered. Mister Oh had stopped by the barn on his way to town. He had time to cool off, and put his thoughts together. He knew the old ways could have rendered the answers he sought. Yet now, more then ever, The Game, must be played with brinkmanship. Why not use the tools afforded him. The Judge rose from his chair and beheld the man standing in his study. He was dressed with a deep purple tunic, with light blue britches, atop a pair of dark brown, knee-high leather boots. Around his waist, was wrapped a silver sash, and around his neck, hung a heavy laden silver chain, with the seal of Iceland. His beard was braided and adorned at the end with a twisting silver band. His hair was pulled into a ponytail, held with another silver band. The man’s head was adorned with a braided band, also of silver weaves. Judge Hart observed this sight and remembered his last time in New Orleans, at Mardi Gras. Then he saw the face of Mister Odhinsunar, all thoughts of a party, vanished quickly. "Come in, come in. Please have a seat. Charles. Some refreshments. What would you care for?” The judge asked, as he motioned for the man to be welcome. "Water," Mister Odhinsunar said to the little man. "Very good sir," Charles replied, as he closed the door. Mister Odhinsunar walked over to the Judge and placed the book down. His eyes followed the judge's, as he sat and said, "We have a lot to discuss. Could the doctor attend?” The Judge regarded the book and then Mister Odhinsunar before answering, "Yes, I'll call him. Barring any emergencies, he should be here in a few minutes.” Judge Hart lifted the receiver and pressed a button, in a moment he began to speak. "Doc, if you can drop everything. Come right over to the study. Use the side door . . . yes, all right, five minutes, good . . . I'll tell you when you arrive.” The judge replaced the receiver and eyed the couch where the Ambassador sat. He glanced over to the bookshelves to his right. "The doctor will be here soon. How may I help you, till he arrives?” Mister Odhinsunar was about to answer when light tapping came upon the door as it opened. Charles rolled in the cart, with its assortment of decanters, and a large pitcher of ice water. Charles poured a dark liquid into a glass and handed it to the judge. He thought about pouring a glass of water then stopped. He looked at the pitcher and then at the man's hands. Charles presented the pitcher to the giant. "Will that be all, sir?” Judge Hart noticed Mister Odhinnsunar's hand around the water pitcher. He realized the grasp was similar to his own upon the drinking glass. With a look to Charles he said, "Yes. Yes, that will be all for now. Doctor Holiday will be here soon. See that we are not disturbed.” "Very good, sir,” Charles replied, and left the study. As the judge looked at the book again, he heard the rapping on the French doors of the study. He went over and let the doctor enter. "What's going on Paul? Why call me out Saturday?” Doc Holiday probed, as his eyes adjusted to the light in the study. The voice of the giant, coming from the couch, made him jump. "I called you out. I have some questions that your book did not answer.” Mister Odhinsunar said tersely. The doc's eyes followed the voice back to the large man on the couch. He saw how the man was dressed, doing double-take, when he saw the water pitcher in the man's hand. "Judge, is this a joke?” The doctor asked. Mister Odhinsunar stood at once, and the doctor could see in an instant, no one was laughing. "Doc, take a seat, the Ambassador is here officially. He wants information about Taylorville.” The doctor stared at the judge, and then to the book on the desk. Doctor Holiday went to a chair next to the desk and sat. Judge Hart reseated himself behind the desk, as Mister Odhinsunar returned to the couch. Judge Hart pointed to the cart and the doctor filled a glass with some brown liquid and refilled the judge's glass. "Now, how can we help you, Mister Ambassador?” The judge asked, after savoring his drink. "I've read your accounts on the founding of this town,” Mister Odhinsunar began. "I understand most of the beginnings, and the ways of the land, with masters and slaves. However, what I want to know is, how can a people leave their deceased, in disgrace and neglect. Even the victors, bury the vanquished, in respect of the fight.” The judge and doctor looked at one another with the same puzzled expression on their faces. "I don't know what you are speaking of.” The judge replied, and the doctor shook his head. "The graveyard!” Mister Odhinsunar said with steel in his voice. "The graveyard?” The Judge echoed, while looking to the doctor for help. "Why Mister Ambassador, the graveyard is in splendid repair. The headstones are polished every month, and the lawn is mown weekly. Why, every holiday, fresh flowers are placed on the sights and flags adorn our war dead.” Mister Odhinsunar watched both men nodding in agreement. Then he explored, "And the church?” "Pastor Miller keeps the church in well order. He has it cleaned twice a week, before Wednesday evening, and after Sunday services.” The doctor replied. "What of the walkway to the lake?” Mister Odhinsunar asked and watched both men closely. The judge and doctor spied each other and mouthed the word together, Lake? "The place I've recently come from, Taylor Lake, across from the church, and the graveyard.” Mister Odhinsunar said steadily. "He's talking about poppers’ field, Judge. The old graveyard behind his farm." "I don't understand. Why do you want to know about that place?” The judge replied. Mister Odhinsunar stood, and with one huge stride, stopped in front of the judge's desk. His right fist pressed down on the middle of the wood and it started to bow. In a very low whisper he addressed the men. "You never neglect your warriors. One day, they will come back on the people they served.” He released the pressure and the desk leveled. Left, were four deep impressions where the man's knuckles had been. He returned and seated himself on the couch. The doctor, with his mouth agape, and eyes on the desk, was trying to figure out the pressure, per square inch, it would take to make those, marks when he remembered Taylor's body. He thought again of a hydraulic press, and he was certain that this man could do such damage. Still, he was at the courthouse, wasn't he? The judge also stared at his desk then to the man on the couch. "Mister Odhinsunar, let me explain. About twenty years ago, the new church was built, north of town. The people found it closer, and more convenient, than the old one. The graveyard was tended, until the last preacher passed away. Families of those buried, did their best and as the years passed, they too, became too old or they left the area. The city council took a vote to move the grave sights, however, the money involved, and the amount of sights, couldn't be covered.” “Besides the civil war dead, most of the sights, belong to the poor of the east side. They don’t have the means to keep up their grave sites, much less pay for relocation. So you see, it wasn't cost effective, to the community.” "No! I don't see!” Mister Odhinnsunar's low voice, thundered. "Money, was the only concerns, to the minds of your people. They had forgotten the flesh, bone, and blood of those who fought for them. The hours of labor, which worked the land and improved this stead.” “They forgot about the tears, that washed the ground of the dead. Their only thoughts were of the money. That was their way of repaying their debts, to the families that started this village.” The judge and doctor both took the last of their drinks in one swallow. The judge looked into the man's ice blue eyes and said, "You're right. I’m dreadfully sorry.” The doctor hung his head and echoed, he too was sorry. "Well gentlemen. What do you propose to do about this? How do you think this change can come about in New Hope?” Mister Odhinsunar relaxed his tone as he spoke. "Mister Odhinsunar. The costs are even greater now, than, say five years ago, to transplant the sights. The people are no better off. I don't see how . . . " The judge stopped quickly as the big man's eyes narrowed in on him. "Money again!” Mister Odhinsunar growled. The judge reached for the decanter and filled both glasses. "I could call a town meeting. We could take another vote, and see if the people . . .” The judges’ words trailed off again. "Paul. You can't win this case.” Doc Holiday responded as he glanced up from his glass. “This man has already condemned you, I think. I’m next. So why not pass your sentence, and be done with it,” Doc Holiday said, with a quick jerk to his drink. Mister Odhinsunar liked this old man's ways. He liked the straight approach to a problem, in the body, or the soul. Mister Odhinsunar announced his plan to both men sitting there. Twenty minutes of questions and answers followed, both the judge and doctor agreed, it was to be a bold plan. "Do you think you can do it?” The doctor asked. "I won't have to. The people will do it. Even if only one labors at first, the rest will follow, or be lost to the god they made over them. Either way, the dead will not go unnoticed. That has been going on for far to long.” Mister Odhinsunar replied, looking at the large clock on the wall, and noticing that it was half past one. "I hope to see you both at the farm at sunset. I'm having a little town meeting of my own.” Mister Odhinsunar said, as he walked to the door. Charles came along sides of him as he guided the big man to the front door. As he opened the door, Charles said, "Good show sir, have a pleasant day.” Some things never change, walls with ears and keyholes with eyes, Mister Oh thought, with a small grin, recalling how servants always know everything in a household.

Mister Oh continued to Goldberg's grocery store. He ignored the stares of the people on his path. He had seen stares of this sort before, if they wanted to stare, let them. At least he would be the talk of the town, sooner or later, anyway. On the front door of the market, Mister Oh saw the CLOSED sign. Damn, I should have known better, Mister Oh uttered to himself. He was about to leave, when the front door swung open. "Hello to you. Is there something you want?” "The sign says closed.” Mister Oh replied to Mister Goldberg, standing in the doorway. Mister Goldberg motioned for him to enter. "Yes, the sign in correct. Yet for such a fine man, my doors are always open. Come in, come in,” Mister Goldberg insisted, as Mister Oh entered. "Is there another market in New Hope?” Mister Oh asked, noticing no one else inside. Mister Goldberg was taken by surprise and said, "Not like my store. There's a small place out west, where you can get donuts and gas, but that's about it.” Mister Oh frowned and was about to leave when Mister Goldberg asked, "What do you need? When do you need it?” "I’m having a gathering at my farm, a little past sun down. I would like some food for my guests.” Mister Oh replied still frowning. "Well, that's not too much to ask for.” Mister Goldberg said smiling. "How many people will you be having by?” "About one hundred.” Mister Oh replied looking down. Mister Goldberg looked up, then pulled at his ear as he asked, "Did you say, one hundred?” "Yes. That sounds about right.” "No problem at all.” Mister Goldberg said, deep in thought, "I'll call my brothers. We can deliver any thing you want.” "I had in mind. Two sides of beef, with all the things that would go with a feast.” Mister Oh said, watching the eyes of this man grow wider. "Two sides of beef? All the trimmings! Are you a chef as well?”

Mister Oh stopped in mid thought. The word chef hit him like a ton of bricks. How could he be so forgetful? He'd never cooked a meal in his life. Now this merchant was asking if he could feed over a hundred people. Mister Oh gazed around the market again and softly said, "No, I do not cook.” A small chuckle came from the old dessert dweller. Mister Oh stared intently at the man and that stopped quickly. "Now, now, don't you worry about a thing. My wife and sisters-in-law have a catering business in New Orleans. I’m here today to meet the shipping trucks with fresh food for the store. You let me take care of everything. You'll see. It will be a great feast for one and all.” "How much will this cost?” Mister Goldberg thought for a moment, recalling the talk around the store last night, when all the workers came by. He looked up at Mister Oh and said, "We will settle the price later. You pay me what you think it is worth to you.” "Fair enough," Mister Oh replied, looking into the almost ebony eyes and then smiled. "Please have your families come, and join the feast.” "Well then, we must plan for one hundred and fifty for this party.” Mister Goldberg replied laughing. Mister Goldberg was still chuckling as he bid a good day to the big man at the door.

Mister Odhinsunar walked out to Main Street and thought, I think, it's time I continued my talk with the Stones. That was the moment, when he saw Jim and Willie Price walking toward the town square. He stood and observed them entered the Stones from the Heart Jewelry Shop. Jim opened the door and called out, "Anybody home?" "Just us with no place better to be!” Matt replied looking up from his bench. Matt rose and came around the counter, greeting each brother with a handshake. "You think you can fix it, like you said?” Jim asked as he pulled out his pocket watch. "I'll do my best. Probably needs a little cleaning. I'll take it down, and then we'll know. If you want to wait, it's okay. There's coffee in the pot, and some sodas in the fridge.” Matt said, taking the watch and going back to his work bench. The brothers knew the shop well, and they liked the air conditioning also. When Matt was there alone, it was always set below seventy. However, if Maureen was there, it was turned off. She always liked the heat. Matt placed the watch on the table as he donned his glasses. Willie thought they made him look like a mad scientist, because of all the different lenses that rotated. Matt had Willie try them on once, and examine a diamond. First they were normal, but when Matt started moving the lenses, Willie, could see to the bottom of the gem. It took a minute or two, for Willie's eyes to refocus, after removing them. Matt considered the watch carefully. He had heard the story of Jim's fathers death in the train wreck years ago, outside New Orleans. Jim's father, was a conductor, and this was a gift to him from his wife. Matt opened the case and peered at the engravers workmanship. In a beautiful script it read: To: James T. Price From: Charlotte G. Price With Love Forever Matt opened the back, and there, he saw the old photo of mother, father, and two small boys. Matt removed the case and placed it to one side. He looked over to the brothers. Willie was eyeing the watches on display. Well that's no surprise, Matt thought. Matt’s eyes went over to where he knew Jim would be, examining the crosses. Jim was not there. Scanning the shop, to the last place Matt thought to look, finding Jim kneeling in front of the display of tarot cards, crystals, and candles. Matt thought that to be really strange, but with a mental shrug went back to work on the watch. Matt observed the main spring and noticed something stuck between the gears. With the delicateness of a surgeon, he removed the object, and placed it on the black felt cloth he worked above. In the next few seconds, the watch was together, and working fine. "Hey Jim. Come and set this antique time piece, will you?” Matt called. Willie was first to the counter, then Jim arrived and said, "You got it working already?” "See for yourself, or if you wish, hear for yourself,” Matt replied as he handed the watch to Jim. Matt laughed to himself, and went to the small refrigerator for a soda. Jim glanced at the store clock as he set the watch. Willie gazed on the proceedings with great interest, he had seen Jim do this only once before. That was the day their mother gave it to Jim. Willie received his father's shotgun, but Willie had always wanted his father's watch. After the watch was set, Jim showed it to Willie and let him hold it. Willie held the watch until a voice came from behind him and the watch flew into the air. "What time is it Willie?” The low rumbling tone of Mister Odie asked. The watch was on a flight path, directed straight at Maureen's face, as she entered the front door. Maureen's eyes were adjusting to the light of the shop, when they saw a twirling gold disc heading her way. She gasped as a blurred motion engulfed the disc, and a breeze came upon her skin. "Matt! Turn off that air conditioner. You could raise penguins in here.” She said as she looked around. In the shop, she saw Jim and Willie looking up to her side, with a look of amazement on their faces. Matt was behind the counter, also staring to her side. His face was fixed in a strange gaze. Maureen turned and looked at the deep purple tunic not more than three feet away. She stepped back and looked up into the blue eyes, staring back at her. "Mister Odhinsunar, I presume.” "You are as correct, as you are lovely to behold.” Mister Oh answered. Then he addressed Jim, as he returned the watch. "You must be careful with things of great value.” Jim stared at the watch, as it was still in one piece. Willie looked also and asked, "Did you see his arm move?” "I saw something but doan knows what it was.” Jim said regarding his brother. Maureen went to the air conditioner and pushed the off button. She turned to Matt and said, "I'm going to start dinner now. If your friends want to stay, they're welcome, but, they'll have to settle for pot luck.” "Do not bother with your kitchen chores.” Mister Odie said. "I have come to invite you both to the farm tonight.” "We was thinkin you had mo' work fo' us to do.” Jim said and placed the watch back in his pocket. "Not on a Saturday. All will come to feast and fest. The gathering should last until midnight. Those, who chose to stay, may sleep under the stars.” "Willie, we better get back and tell the family that we is goin to a party.” "We best tell everyone, so's they doan gets started with supper, and they can get some sitters.” Willie answered. "Have the children brought to the farm. They may be tended and still be a part of both, feast and fest.” The brothers nodded and said their goodbys to Mister Oh, and the Stones. "Mister Odie, please enter our lodge, and have some fresh water.” Matt said as the door closed. Mister Oh regarded him and could see the impish twinkling in his eyes. "Yes. We can find something of interest to discuss, I'd wager while we drink.” Mister Oh said as he headed for the rear door, and waited for Maureen to enter first.

The group was deep in conversation, when the sound of breaking glass could be heard throughout the apartment. Maureen rose and entered the shop and saw the broken window. In the middle of the floor, she found a baseball lying on the carpet. Maureen walked over to the ball, as the front door opened. Maureen found herself, face to face, with Pastor Miller. "What you are doing is a sin, against the people, the town, and God Almighty.” She eyed this man, with her lips curling into a smile, with a laugh close to follow. She'd had a couple of run-ins with this jerk before, but he never had the nerve, or guts, to come into the shop. His next words changed her smile, into a snarl, and Maureen was letting out her Leo temper through her eyes. "You people, with your ungodly ways, should be persecuted, chastised, and, and . . .” The pastor was searching for one of his good sermons, when the words from Matt, came to him. "Thrown to the Lions?” The pastor watched Matt, as he came to the side of his wife. "Lions?” The pastor looked at them both puzzled. Clearly, he had not rehearsed this sermon long enough, and he had been sidetracked. He thought he could handle this woman alone, because Matt was supposed to be at the lake. "Yes, Lions! That's what you do to people who are against the established normal belief. Isn't it?” Maureen asked in a stern voice. Matt could see she was fired up by this intrusion, and the only way to cool her down, was to let her go off on this person. "We are talking about Christens aren't we? That's how the normal belief of the people settled with them long ago. That's also the time that their teacher's words were changed to subjugate the subjects of Rome. When their money was gone, it became easier to win a war with words, instead of swords. It happened again, in Spain. It's so sad to think, that a belief is so corrupt, that its followers have to destroy other beliefs in the name of their god?” Maureen was on fire, and her words were hitting this man with complete accuracy. She was saying something about that belief system. How it had already fallen from grace, after the first of the noble crusades. They were fought only for money and property, and the enslavement of man. Pastor Miller, began to say something akin to, Casting out of Witches. However, in his frustration, the words came out as, "That's enough, Bitch!” Maureen was shocked by this, and Matt was stepping forward with his hands clinched, to lodge his own form of protest. A large hand covered his chest and stopped his frontal movement. In the next second, Pastor Miller, was two feet above the carpet, and being held there by his belt and trousers. "Excuse me, my lady, whilst I take out the trash.” Mister Odie said, as he walked to the front door, with a man firmly locked in his grasp. "Put me down! Put me down! You, you freak!” Pastor Miller's voice sounded like a small child, as he, passed though the front door. Maureen and Matt followed this, almost comical sight outside. Gently, Mister Odie, placed the pastor on the sidewalk. Two other men were there watching this, with their mouths open. "I'll press charges of assault against you!” Pastor Miller was saying, while being released. "Well! Looks like I'll have the pleasure of your company again, High Pockets.” Sheriff Thomas said as he approached the group standing outside the shop. "How about arresting these guys for vandalism of our shop while you're at it, sheriff?” Maureen asked. "Come on Mrs. Stone. The boys were playing catch, and the ball got away. It was an accident. You boys don't mind paying for the repairs, do you?” Sheriff Thomas asked, with a wide grin on his face. "No sheriff. We don't mind paying, shouldn't be more than ten dollars worth anyway.” One man said. "It's closer to three hundred, with the art work.” Matt announced, loudly. "Now, the boys only broke glass, Mister Stone. It's up to you, what you paint on it. I'm sure Mister Johnson can get you a pane of glass to do the repair.” Sheriff Thomas said, as he looked at the highly decorative glass work. "The glass alone, cost over a hundred dollars, sheriff. It came from New Orleans, and . . .” Matt was stopped by the sheriff raising his hand. "You file a complaint, and let the judge settle this. All I see is two men who said they would pay for the accident. That's all. But as for you, High Pockets, I, with all you here, witnessed an act of assault on the pastor, and he's going to press those charges. Ain’t that right, pastor?” The sheriff smiled at Miller with a winking of his eye. "That's right! I want you to lock this, er, person up. He's a threat to the people and property of this town.” Miller said, as he adjusted his trousers. A horn blasted from the street, as a silver Subaru swung into the parking slot, in front of the store. Paul Hart Jr. got out and went to Mister Odhinnsunar's side and asked, "What's going on Sheriff?” The sheriff was taking out his hand cuffs, then remembering the market, replaced them. "Well boy, your client here, physically assaulted Pastor Miller in front of these witnesses. I'm taking him to jail.” Sheriff Thomas answered. "My name is Mister Hart. Paul to my friends, but to you, it's Mister Hart. You are not taking Mister Odhinsunar, anywhere!” Mister Oh opened the package, which Paul had handed him, and scanned the contents. Mister Oh pulled out a small folded black wallet and opened it. He swiftly read the cards that were present. "Mister Hart! You don't understand. I have witnesses to a crime that I saw myself. This man is under arrest, now let's go!” The sheriff announced, with a sneer, while holding the handle of his revolver. "No sheriff. You don't understand. I claim, Diplomatic Immunity.” Mister Oh declared, as he turned the wallet around, and showed the sheriff its possessions. The card at the top was issued from the country of Iceland, with the seal embossed over the presidents name. The card on the bottom was issued from the Department of State, with the directors name, and the name of the President of the United States. "That means Sheriff. If Mister Odhinsunar did drive a car. You couldn't even give him a traffic ticket. And I don't think you could come up with enough syllables, to form a legal protest, that would even be read in Washington, D.C." Mister Hart expounded, as he addressed the man wearing a rumpled uniform, and a tarnished badge. Paul, eyeing the broken window, turned to the Stones and asked, "May I be of service to you also?” Paul thought, that his practice was increasing by the day, and he was undecided now about leaving for a job in New Orleans. "How do you think we should handle this broken window? We already have the admitted guilt from these two, and a willingness to pay. The real problem is price. I was wondering, how would you go about deciding such things?” Matt asked, as he eyed the two men, next to an old pickup. Paul surmised the problem in a moment, and with a straight face he announced, "You say, they admitted they threw the object that caused the breakage, and they want to make restitution as well?” “One way to satisfy all parties, is for the repairs to be made, and the payments are divided by the perpetrators. If that is not suitable, an insurance adjustor can begin an investigation, as to whom, where, and most importantly, the why of this matter.” “If a third party, or more is implicated, then a conspiracy charge could be instigated by the D.A. Of course, that's a timely process, and the perpetrators would be held for questioning and may undergo a lie detector analyst. Based on cost to the good tax payers, the D.A. would have to go to trail. I would imagine he’d work hard for a conviction that would be in the area of, oh, five to ten years for this action.” The two men were getting nervous by this legal talk, Paul was spouting, and they were having a hard time following the jargon, until the mention of ten years in prison rang a bell. The two looked to the sheriff, and then to the pastor. One man was on the verge of saying something but was cut short by Pastor Miller. "Now these two men are hard working church members. I'm sure we could settle this thing without any investigation or court action. I think the church could cover the damages to your shop and the matter could be over and done with.” "Of course, the money for these repairs would be a charitable contribution, and these poor hard working church members, would not have to repay for such a kindly act of their faith, would they Pastor?” Maureen asked, wily, her blue eyes never leaving the pastors’. “Why of course not Mrs. Stone. The church is a nonprofit organization, they contribute all the time to the needy, that's why they are tax exempt.” Paul answered in a deadpan voice. The men were standing a little easier and one even had a smirk on his face. The smile disappeared, when he saw the pastor's face. “Yes, yes, the church will cover the damages. If, or when, these two can find their way to help others in times of need, that will satisfy the church.” Pastor Miller knew the trick had back fired and he was left holding the bag. He thought this kid was going to be as tough as his father, if he stayed around the town much longer. "Fine then. I'll need your names and addresses for the affidavit the Stones can present their insurance adjustor, and I'll have the copies sent to you both. Of course, one also to the church.” Paul said, as he produced a legal pad from his brief case. Mister Odhinsunar was still standing silent as the group began to break up. One last look from the sheriff, told him that this man was still after him, and was not about to be stopped by some legal maneuvers. Well, all in good time. Mister Oh thought, and then he replayed Paul's words in his mind. In another place, and at another time, this youth could have been the kings’ Bard. Mister Oh tried to think of Paul with a lute strapped around his shoulder. Yes, the king's Bard indeed, he concluded. When only the Stones, Mister Oh, and Paul, were present, Maureen asked, "Would you like for us to bring anything to the party?” "Party? What party?" Paul explored the group. "The shindig, Mister Odie is having at the farm tonight," Matt said, while watching the backs of Pastor Miller, and the two men as they walked and talked to the sheriff, heading back to the jail. "Tonight? I thought you wanted Tamry and me to drive you somewhere.” Paul said to Mister Oh. “Yes, there is to be a party at the farm. And no, Mrs. Stone, bring only those things that may comfort you, while resting upon the good earth. Everything else is being furnished by myself and the market keeper Goldberg. So as I need to make ready for this event, I shall say adieu for now to you all. I'll see you again at sun set.” Mister Oh bowed slightly to Maureen and nodded to the men. He turned and went down the sidewalk with a crisp stride. "How long before we have the paperwork, Mister Hart?” Matt asked, as he watched the big man cross the street. "It shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes for me to type it up and make some copies. By the way, the name's Paul, Mister Hart is the mayor, or didn't you people vote in the last election.” Paul said, with a straight face, then all three broke out laughing. Maureen said that it was time to go in and clean the shop. They went in and Matt said he wanted to take some pictures for their agent. Paul thought that was a good idea, and went to the trunk of his car for his Polaroid camera, for his own files. After receiving all the information from the Stones, Paul said it was time for him to get ready for the party. As he was leaving, he called out, "Don't be late Matt and Maureen. Mister Oh is kind of funny about this sundown, sunup, thing of his.” "We know all about that Paul. We'll be on time, see you there.” Maureen called back. Matt plucked a soda from the refrigerator, as he went to get the broom and dust pan. As he was picking up the pieces he said, "I was supposed to be fishing you know!" "Yes honey, I know.” Maureen replied, as she knelt to pick up the ball. Holding the ball in her hand she said, "I just wish I had that parson right now, like this.” Matt let out a laugh and said, "Don't give him that much credit.” Both laughed on and off throughout the rest of the cleaning job.

The first step van arrived an hour before sunset. The side panel sign, denoted that the truck belonged to, Goldberg and Stein Caters of New Orleans. Two men opened the doors and exited. They went to the rear and opened the doors. They took large trays of covered food from the back and proceeded toward the barn. As they approached the last few feet to the doors, they were met by two of the largest goats they had ever seen. Both stopped, and looked back and forth, between each other, and the goats. "Over here.” A loud voice called out, from behind the barn. The men sidestepped the animals and went toward the voice. As they came by the edge of the barn, they saw the first of ten long tables, placed on the side of the field. As they came closer, the men could see the tables were in fact, split logs. Smaller logs were also split for the benches. The rustic scenery was amusing to them while placing the trays down. The next scene in the rural picture brought both to an abrupt end of their combined metropolitan attitude. Before them, stood a seven-foot, six-inch giant, holding a double blade axe. The giant's long red hair was neatly braided in front, and hung loose at the back. His beard was also braided on the sides. His eyes were ice blue. The closest man stood staring upwards, until he noticed that words were being spoken to him by the giant. “The pit is ready for the beef, over there.” Mister Odie said. “Ah, yes sir. We only have the appetizers in this truck. The main course is in the other trucks that will be following shortly,” the man said nervously. “The other trucks?” Mister Odie, questioned. “Three more trucks, en route, will be here in about another ten minutes,” the other man said. “Yes sir, ten minutes. Mister Goldberg and Mister Stein will be arriving, so we must be getting to our jobs,” the first man said. “Very good then, go about your labors. I will tend to the fire and meet with Mister Goldberg when he arrives.” Mister Odie said, as he turned away. “Man oh man! They grow 'em big down on the farm, don't they now?” The man said to his partner. The other nodded in agreement and replied, “Yes, and if we don't hurry up, we won't be getting any bigger or richer.” The men doubled their efforts and were almost finished when the other trucks rolled in. Mister Odhinsunar greeted Mister Goldberg and then Mister Stein. Mister Stein said something to Mister Goldberg in their native tongue. “I'm this height to look over the snowdrifts at my home.” Mister Odie replied with a smile. Both Goldberg and Stein were puzzled, and Goldberg asked, ”Where did you learn Hebrew?” “In my travels, I have to learn many tongues. So that I may speak with, but more importantly, listen to the people I meet.” Mister Odie replied, observing the food and the sides of beef passing by. Mister Goldberg nodded to Mister Stein and they went about their routine of setting up for the party. Mister Odie showed the men to the pit, which was glowing brightly with the beginnings of the coals. Above the pit an iron spit had been erected. The pit was such a size, that the two sides of beef were easily seated. As sunset approached, the banquet area was fully prepared, and the trucks were being parked down the road so that they would be out of the way. All of the men, and the two women, that worked for the catering service, were still talking about the host. Still, no one was complaining of the pay they were going to receive for this nights’ work.

The first of the guests arrived on foot. The Price family came hand in hand. Jim and Cissy, Willie and Lotty, Adam and Charlotte, the two youngest, walked side by side. They did not know what was to be expected at this party. Nevertheless, with Jim's urging, they had put on their best, Sunday, go to meeting, clothes. Cissy and Lotty first saw the barn, with its new paint, and then they noticed the strange symbols painted on the side. It was of a circular pattern within another circle. “What do you think that is?” Lotty asked Cissy. “Looks like something I did with my spiral-graph toy, you bought me a couple years back.” Adam, who had seen it also, said. Then Adam recalled the tally quote of five gallons of white paint and the brushes, could Mister Odie have painted this? “Where's the house? Where's Grandpa’s house?” Cissy asked, as the group entered the yard. “In the past Cissy, just like Grandpa.” Jim said, squeezing her hand with a catch in his voice, as he spoke. “Mista Odie says we is gonna build a new house. Startin in the mornin.” Willie said. “When do the supplies get delivered?” Adam asked. “He tole me they's already here. Alls we got to do is talk to them.” Jim answered as they came up to the barn. Willie was about to question Jim further, when Lotty yelled, “Willie, what's that?” “What's wrong with you girl? You act as if you never seen goats before?” Willie said, through giggles. The men of the family looked at the goats standing in front of the barn doors and laughed uproariously. “Goats!? Those things are the size of calves you fool, not goats!” Lotty fired off at Willie. She was annoyed by not being told of the house, now to see this, was a little more than she could stand. Adam noticed the chicken coop was gone, along with all the chickens. He was about to ask Jim when they heard Mister Odie's call. “Around the side Jim.” Mister Odie's voice was loud and clear. They walked around the barn, as the wind shifted and bought the smell of roasting beef with it. “That sho nuff smell good Mista Odie and I sho am . . . ” Jim stopped as did every foot of the Price family. Before their eyes laid something they had only seen on television, with a fashion of those barbeques, they watched on that show, Dallas, some years ago. The tables were full of all sorts of foods. Candles were placed in large silver holders, some with eight candles burning at once. “Thanksgiving in August. My, oh my.” Willie said as he went closer to the tables. Mister Odie came up to welcome them. The youngest ones, hid behind their mothers. They peeked up at the man, whose hair looked like it was on fire, in the candlelight. “Welcome to you all. I hope the food will be to your liking. If you would care for something to drink first, help yourself to the refreshment table.” Mister Odie pointed, and the family could see all sorts of sodas and fruit juices. He then addressed Jim smiling, ”And for those who care for something a bit stronger, may I show you to the necator of the gods.” Willie was close behind Mister Odie, followed by Jim, as he led them behind the tables to three kegs. Jim could see that these kegs were the largest he'd ever seen. Must be a hundred gallons each, Jim thought, as he watched Mister Odie pull the lid off one barrel? Next, from a lined bucket, Mister Odie brought, into the light, two large horns. He dipped one into the keg. After he had given the brothers the horns, Mister Odie produced another, which he plunged into the liquid. “May the taste be as sweet at the finish, as it is in the beginning?” Mister Odie raised the horn with the toast then drank from it. Jim and Willie raised their horns and drank some liquid. Jim was the first to talk after he caught his breath. “What is this, Mista Odie?” Willie was wondering the same, but his words were still in his head, as his mouth was getting the after taste, and he was thinking, Not bad. “It's called Mead. It is honey brewed ale. Is it not to your taste?” Mister Odie, questioned. Willie took another drink and Jim followed his example and then said, ”Whew, that first step will get you off balance fo sho!” Mister Odie laughed and said, ”Tread softly then. Tomorrow is a workday.” The honking of a car horn announced the arrival of Paul and Tamry. Mister Odie motioned the brothers to join their family. Willie stopped to dip his horn again before going back. “Mister Oh, sorry we're a little late, but Tamry couldn't decide what to wear to a farm party.” Paul said when he and Tamry came up. “Look at all this. You must have worked all day.” Tamry said, as her eyes went from table to table. “I had much help today, with this, and more things to come, Mistress Greenwood.” Mister Oh said. Tamry smiled at Paul. He’d filled her in, on what happened, with the sheriff. “Come join in and make yourself happy.” Mister Odie led them to a table and Jim brought a horn to Paul. “Be careful with this stuff, it might sneak up on you.” Jim said to Paul. “Nonsense! Mead need not sneak. It will hit you with your eyes open and your stomach full.” Mister Odie said with a grin. Paul wondered what he meant, until the first taste. Wow, was all he could manage to say. Tamry tried the next sip. Whoa, she commented breathlessly. Then they laughed together and Tamry told Paul that she wanted her own horn. The next hour was spent with the work crew. Their families gathered and talking together, as they ate and drank. Mister Odie was happy with this start. He stood next to the corner of the barn. He thought of the thunderstorm, and how it announces itself with only a few drops. These were those drops, if they can live and work together, than it was possible, but even this was not enough. They had a common enemy, the unknown of tomorrow. Where were their next jobs, or even food, to coming from? It's one thing to bring them together now, but they will need to choose, to stay after. Will they stay, or fall back to where they were? It's still a game of words, and that's all it can be for them, now. Mister Odhinsunar was lost in thought as he studied these people. He failed to feel the movement next to his leg, which was an old dingy coated calico cat. However, he did come back when the voice next to him spoke his name. “Thorran, do you think you could liven this party up a little bit more?” Matt asked as he rested next to the big man on the side of the barn. Mister Odie's head took a quick snap to the right and then looked down at both of the Stones, standing next to him. Then he saw the cat. It growled at him as it walked away. “You must listen to him, if you want to know what he’s telling you. How about a bonfire to lighten up the place, and your mood?” Maureen asked, with a grin. “How did you get here?” Mister Oh asked softly to Matt. “By truck. This body only walks around lakes these days.” Matt jokingly answered. “I mean, here, right here!” Mister Odie asked in a tense voice. “As deep as you were a minute ago, a tank could have parked next to you. Snap to Rookie. This is supposed to be a party, not a wake.”

Mister Oh looked at him and thought to himself, maybe a little, or a lot, of both. Mister Oh said nothing to Matt or Maureen as he walked toward the debris pile in the field. When he arrived, he called out to all, “Gather round with drink for a toast.” All those who could, brought glass or horn. Some mothers remained to take care of the smaller children. Then Mister Oh lit a torch, and held it high above his head. Jim and Willie together, had a moment of fear, at this sight. Matt Stone had a picture form in his mind of the past. Mister Odhinnsunar's voice brought them all back as he spoke for all to hear, “This night, with the stars on high, and with the help and labor of you all, brings a new beginning to this land. In the near and distant future, with hope, all here will remember this night.” With those words in the ears of the people Mister Odie placed the torch at the bottom of the pile. Within a minute, the flames rose higher and higher into the nights’ sky. The glow of light radiated for yards around, and the people were bathed in the heat. The fire was crackling and popping with the glass and old pipes, which were being reduced to ash, along with the rotted timbers. As the noise was dying away, another sound could be heard coming from the woods. A soft sound, of flutes and drums, drifted slowly to the ears of the gathering. Slowly, one by one, people emerged from the oaks, and began to cross the field. Mister Odie walked toward them, and as the first came into the light, the big man clasped his arms around each in a hug and with a pat on the shoulder, or a kiss to the cheek. He directed them toward the tables and kegs. These newcomers, were of strength and stature, and of different races and colors. They said hello to all they met and spoke of the beautiful children that were there. They ate and drank, danced and played as the fire burned. One man did not eat, drink, dance, or play. He came up to Mister Odhinsunar, and after a hug they walked off together toward the woods. Only a few there saw this, as the party was becoming quite joyous, but the Stones saw this, as did Jim and Willie. “Where do you think Mister Odie be goin? Do you think he be back?” Jim asked, walking over to Matt. “He's still there, Jim. Just out of sight, but not gone. He's talking with someone he needs advise from right now.” Matt said, eyeing the woods. “He said to me and Willie that you have to listen, 'fore things could tell you anything. He must be doin that rights now, I reckon.” Matt nodded in agreement as they walked to the kegs. As the fire burned down, the newcomers said their farewells, and walked back into the trees. The party was coming to a close at the midnight hour, and the people were starting to leave. Mister Odie had some guests driven home by the caterers, and told Mister Goldberg to add it to the bill. “It's on the house. We do such things at our parties also.” Mister Goldberg replied, with a wave of his hand. Mister Odie wished all a good night, and told Jim not to come to work until nine. He was to make sure the rest of the crew did the same. “I hope there won't be much banging goin on in the mornin', my head is hurtin' already.” Jim said, as the family was getting into a truck. The last to say goodbye was Matt and Maureen. They stopped by the barn as Matt looked inside to the chest, in the middle of the dirt floor. “Have a pleasant evening.” Mister Odie said. “The sun brings the new day, and if everything is right, maybe that new beginning you spoke about.” Matt said, while extending his arms. Each man, grasping the others fore arm, in an elder tradition of parting. They wondered silently, what next the sun would bring to light. “Sunup we work, sundown, we'll see then.” Mister Oh replied, increasing his grip slightly.

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