Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30, 2011 Chapters 20 and 21

Happy Memorial Day - It is a great day to remember my Dad's service in World War II. He was a young radioman on an LST ship. I'm not sure what that stands for, but he always said it was a long, slow target. He patrolled the East Coast, but never saw combat. But he was one of the thousands who did, and are doing their duty to keep us free...many giving the ultimate sacrifice. Let's fly our flags proudly as we honor them all. 

Chapter 20
   Scheduled for the last Saturday in May, the craft session for Vacation Bible School instructors was planned with the precision of a military invasion. General Maggie, Sharon called  me. I dutifully arrived at 7 a.m. to set up the work stations in the musty old church fellowship hall. Beginning at 8 a.m., starting with the preschool teachers, each of the five groups of volunteer instructors would come for an hour-and-a-half session, learning how to make the different craft projects for each day of the week, five in all. If all went well, and with a half-hour in between each of the sessions reserved for cleanup and the next set up, I would be crafting nonstop until dinnertime. Where was Carol when I needed her!? Oh, yeah. Half way across the country. She had helped with some ideas, albeit long distance. 
  As the first group of teachers was coming in and finding seats at the tables, two elderly women approached me, one tentatively, the other one confidently, sort of pulling the other along. The confident lady was dressed simply in jeans and cotton checked blouse, with short gray hair, a weathered face and intelligent eyes. She looked to be in her mid- to late-70s, and smiled as she introduced herself.

   “I’m Fern,” she said offering me a hand. The strength in her handshake was surprising. “And this is Jenny Bodecker, Mrs. Grant.”
   Uh-oh, I thought. The popsicle-stick queen. She too, was mid-to-late 70s, but with rinsed hair in sort of a soft blue hue, shirtwaist dress, and bright pink lipstick. I hoped surprise wasn’t showing on my face, and turned to offer Mrs. Bodecker my hand. But Jenny Bodecker stood stoically, arms crossed over her ample bosom. She nodded slightly, but wouldn’t look at anything but the wall behind me. 
   Fern put her arm around her and said firmly, “Now, Jenny. We’ll have none of that. You shake hands with Mrs. Grant here and give her a proper Christian welcome or I’ll tell Father Fitzpatrick on you.”

Jenny Bodecker’s eyes widened. Scowling at her friend, she reluctantly took my still offered hand for a quick shake. She quickly returned to her seat and crossed her arms again, still frowning.

   “Sorry about that,” Fern said in a soft West Texas accent. “She’ll come ’round, I reckon. Just take some time. I’m glad you’re here, though, and you can count on me to help in any way. Oh, look at the time. You’d better get a move on, Sweetie. I’ll bet you’ve got a full schedule today!”

    Greeting my class warmly, I decided the direct approach might be the best. Immediately after I introduced myself, I said cheerfully, “I’ve heard such wonderful things about the crafts of years past.” Mrs. Bodecker unfolded her arms and sat up a little straighter, surprised but still frowning as all eyes turned toward her. “And I understand we owe it all to Mrs. Bodecker, who is here with us this morning.” I looked at her and smiled broadly.
   “Monsignor Fitzpatrick tells me she has been a tireless and unselfish volunteer, so much so that when another pre-school instructor was needed this year, she was willing to move into that role as soon as he asked. Thank you so much, Mrs. Bodecker.  Shall we give her a round of applause to thank her for her work?”
  And with a happy, flattered popsicle-stick-queen, I dived into the teaching.

   After the third group ended early, thrilled with the new project ideas and supplies, my stomach growled for the second time, reminding me I’d skipped lunch as well as breakfast. Other volunteers were working in the building preparing the classrooms for VBS on Monday, and rumor had it pizza might have been brought in. Sniffing the air, trying to detect telltale aromas, I only caught the stale odor typical of older buildings. Since I had about 20 minutes until group number four arrived, I went in search of quick sustenance.

   Asking the first person I saw in the hallway, a college-age Hispanic volunteer moving furniture, he replied, “Yes, ma’am. I think there’s some left in the kitchen, down around the corner to the right. Father Murphy was looking for some, too.” As he moved down the hall, he called back over his shoulder, “There wasn’t much left, though.”

Dodging three more volunteers with heavy burdens, I made my way down the long classroom hallway and peeked around the corner. Spotting the kitchen door, I crossed the hall quickly to avoid the constant movement of people on a mission. Just as I stepped inside, I was flattened against the doorframe. Startled, my attacker dropped the pizza slice in his hand and turned to grab me by the arms, holding me up as I gasped for air. He looked down regretfully at his victim. I was still tight against the door.

  “So sorry, I wasn’t looking! Are you alright?” he said.
   I starred up into the most amazing green eyes and my knees buckled. He gently held me as I involuntarily slid down on the floor. He knelt down worriedly beside me. “Really, are you hurt?” he said quickly. “I wasn’t paying attention. I’m so sorry ... seriously, are you OK?”
  Dark mid-length hair framed a handsome, athletic face. His tattered and faded Notre Dame Football T-shirt was probably authentic — he was certainly big enough to have played, although it had to have been thirty years ago, at least. His strong large hands continued to grip my arms, and I had considerable trouble catching my breath and replying. I’d been right: Father Murphy was just as good-looking up close.
   Finally assessing nothing was broken, I sputtered, “Yes, I’m alright ... I think. Just let me get up.” He helped me up. I continued to lean against the door and he continued to hold me. The top of my head came to the middle of his chest, so I had to crane my neck to meet him eye-to-eye. The depths of those eyes was mesmerizing. “I ... I was looking for some pizza ...” I think I said weakly.
  “Uh, oh,” he said as he released me and looked around on the floor, spotting and picking up the slice he’d dropped. Thankfully, it had landed right side up. He blew on the bottom of it. “Afraid I took the last piece. Want a bite?” He held it close to my mouth.
  “Uh, no thanks.” I wrinkled my nose and put my hand up in protest. Unconsciously, my other hand had gone up into my hair and was twisting it through my fingers. At least I think it did. “I really have to get back anyway.”

“Yeah, me too. Again,” he said as he took a bite for himself, “Really sorry to have run into you. You sure you’re OK?”
  “Fine, just fine.”
   He continued to eat, staring at me, leaning closer in with his arm over my head. Too close. I was caught up again in his emerald eyes. With knees threatening to buckle once more, I forced myself to lock them in place to keep my balance. He took another bite of pizza, barely an inch from my mouth, seeming to enjoy the effect he had on me. 
  “Thank you, Father,” I said quickly as I ducked under his arm and hurried out the door.
  “Colin!” he called out after me.

   “Father Colin,” I whispered. My stomach pains had vanished but another hunger had taken its place.

Chapter 21  
“I am telling you, Sharon, I am going to Hell,” I said decidedly to my friend as I took another long sip of wine. The craft day finished, I had declared it a success in that I’d given away all the supplies and ideas and was confident the volunteers would do a decent job. I’d handed out my business cards, though, just in case the volunteer teachers needed some help during the week. I also planned on checking on them in person each day during my lunch hour just to be sure.
   Having feasted on Doug’s leftover ratatouille while he attended a summer student recital that evening, Sharon and I were comfortably seated on the back patio next to the shimmering swimming pool, half-empty glasses in hand. That was another amazing perk to living in Lubbock. Even in the summer, the evenings cooled off so pleasantly it was hard to believe you were in Texas. Most nights, even in late August, air conditioning was turned off and windows were opened to let in the fresh breezes.

   “Don’t be ridiculous,” Sharon said. “Just because the priest is gorgeous and turns you on? That happens all the time. Don’t you remember that handsome blond priest Carol used to talk about in college? What’d the girls call him? Father What’s-his-name...?” 
   “Father What-a-waste,” I remembered.
   “Yeah! Father What-a-waste! That was it. Seems a shame the Catholic church insists on celibacy. But quit worrying. So he turned you on? At least it’s good to know you’re still alive on that front.”
  I gave her a hard look and then turned away, surprised at my flush of emotion.

  Sharon put down her glass and moved over to hug me. “Oh, Maggie, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ... But it has been more than a year ... oh, I’m so sorry.”
  “It’s OK, really. I’m just tired from today, I guess, and more than a little surprised to have been, as you say, ‘turned on’ by a priest, of all men! But you’re right, I guess it’s nice to know I can still at least get bothered by the opposite sex. I’m just not sure I ever wanted to get bothered again.”
  “You’re still young, Maggie — well, relatively speaking. And sex is healthy! What about finding someone from work to just casually sleep with?”
   “You’re joking, right?”

“Yeah, for you, nothing is casual about sex, I guess.” She got up to get more wine for us both.
  I was silent for a few moments, thinking. Then I said softly, “It’s not that I wouldn’t want it, but I don’t believe sex outside marriage is right for me. My faith ... well, you know. And since I don’t ever plan on marrying again ...”
  “I know, and I understand that’s the way you feel, but I just don’t happen to agree, obviously. In fact, I’d like for you to show me where it says in the Bible sex is only for marriage.”

I looked at her with surprise. “I, well, I don’t know offhand, but I’m sure it is. You know, wedding vows and all, ‘Keeping thee only unto thyself’ — no, wait, that’s not right.”
   Sharon giggled. “No, that sounds like you should only pleasure yourself. Say, why don’t you ask Father Murphy?” Sharon teased and then deftly dodged the cracker I threw her way. “Then how about Bennett Boyle for sex? I hear he’s available!”
  I shivered as I grimaced and laughed.  “Celibacy for eternity has to be better than Boyle!”
  “At least you’re laughing again. Let’s go in and watch an old movie, say, Thornbirds?” 
   I threw a second cracker, scoring a direct hit on Sharon’s nose. Then I put my arm lovingly around my diminutive friend’s neck as we walked inside. 
“No!” I said. “But I’ll take Going My Way and a lot more wine.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011 Chapter 19

     After several laps in the pool one evening early last week, I joined Doug and Sharon for a late dinner. Sharon had opted to cook, and produced fairly decent chicken enchiladas, complete with fresh avocado and black olive salad. It was the first meal we had shared since my date with Winston. Again, ships passing in the night.
   “It’s almost like you step back in time,” I told them as I described the afternoon at the windmill museum. “He’s got more than 150 windmills of every size and shape imaginable. They’re gorgeous, and he’s done a wonderful job of displaying them and their history. I learned an awful lot.”

   “Like what?” Sharon asked. “I was out there when it first opened, but it’s been a long time.” Turning to Doug, she said, “You haven’t been there, have you, honey?”

“Nope. Just driven by. I know several windmills are outside. But not 150. How’d he get so many of them in that small building?  And what’s so fascinating about windmill history?” He looked skeptical.

   I eagerly shared my new-found knowledge. “The South Plains was settled mainly because of the windmill. Seems there’s not much surface water around here. No deep rivers, just a few small branches that dry up. And the playas — which I learned are definitely God-made — are seasonal rather than a stable water source. Another old water source, the springs of Lubbock Lake, dried up in the early 1930s.

   “Anyway, this used to be Indian country. In the early 18th century ... I think that’s what Windy said ... the Comanche tribe came and took over from the Apache who were here. It was a Comanche stronghold up until the last battle to move the tribes to Oklahoma reservations. Then cattlemen brought in huge herds and drew water out of the underground water table with windmills.”
   Doug interrupted, “It’s the Ogallala water table here. Huge reservoir about 150 feet below the surface.”

“That’s what Windy said. It’s not too deep, so they didn’t have to go down very far for good water. The wind alone brought up enough to keep stock tanks filled for livestock, and when electricity made power pumps available, enough water was brought up to irrigate crops. The climate was good for cotton. Now, though, civilization takes even more water than crops. Currently, Lubbock gets most of its water from manmade lakes, such as Lake Merideth north of Amarillo, and soon from Lake Alan Henry, south of Post. Anyway, the area was settled as farmland and Tech was born. In fact, without the windmill, we might all be at the University of Texas or A&M.”

“Heaven forbid,” Doug said in mock disgust. “I like the wide-open spaces out here on the Llano Estacado.”
   Sharon looked at me, “Yeah, and I don’t look good in maroon or burnt orange. Maggie, did you ever ask Doug about that? About the name Llano Estacado?”
   “No. Forgot. Doug, what’s it mean? Spanish for ...?”
   “Palisaded plains, or staked plains. There are several theories about the name. Let me get my book on it.” He left to retrieve it from their library.

“Did you find out about that lone wind turbine out at the museum?” Sharon asked as she loaded the last dish in the dishwasher, added detergent, and turned it on. We moved to the den. “Do they actually pull energy from it?”

“They do. It generates enough to run the whole museum. Windy’s got another one coming — or at least the turbine part — in pieces. He plans to put it inside the museum so children can get an up-close idea of the actual size of the propellors. You were right about the size. He says the blades can be anywhere from sixty-five to one-hundred-twenty feet long.”
   “He’s going to put those inside?!”

“Says he is. He has exciting plans for the place, incorporating windmills and wind turbines to show the history of it all. Even planning on finding an old Dutch windmill. Not all the ones out here pulled up water ... some were used like the Dutch ones, to grind wheat or corn. Windy hopes to have the first phase done right after Christmas and will host a gala to open the new exhibits.”
   “New exhibits?” Doug asked, returning.

“Yes, he’s expanding what he has and rearranging it all. Although right now it’s pretty spectacular. Just over 100 windmills are inside, row after row of wooden ones, metal ones, from about four feet high to more than fifty feet tall. Restored blades and tails and towers and motors of every shape and size ... just everywhere. And they’re painted in mostly red and white, with an occasional blue or green here and there—the wheels, that is, not the towers. He’s collected from all across the country. 
   “He’s got one inside with a wheel span of about 25 feet. It’s really special. I think he called it the Southern Cross, but it’s less than twenty years old. The larger the wheel span, the deeper the pipes can go down to get the water. He said the Southern Cross can pull water up from about 1400 feet.

   “Some of them have double wheels and some have two tails. Mill makers normally printed their company names on the tails. Eclipse, Standard, Aermotor — in all different colors and styles.

   “There’s one really old metal tail — the tails point the blades into the wind — you can tell it’s been shot with buckshot many times. Has hundreds of small holes in it. Good target practice for the locals, I guess. Anyway, some of his windmills are more than a hundred years old and still turning. Several inside ones have motors on them now to show how they turned.
   “Oh, and in the middle of the exhibit floor, he’s got a huge fenced pit — about 8 feet deep so windmills can be placed on the subfloor. Runs about 100 feet across the museum floor and I’d say 10 to 15 feet wide. That way, the platforms and blades are closer to eye-level for visitors, again, to get a better view of their size.”
   “That’s a smart way to display them. Bet the kids like it,” Sharon said. “Will it stay like that when he reworks the displays, do you think?”
   “He said he’s moving the pit back farther into the new area, leaving the front area open for classes and receptions. I think the whole museum display area is going to be almost three times its current size.”
   “Then it will really be a showplace. I do like the idea of the pit, though. Smart of him.”
   “I thought so, too. It was a totally different perspective than always looking up. He offered to let me climb a big wooden one outside — the one from his own family farm is right out front — but I wasn’t exactly dressed for climbing. I told him I might take him up on his offer another time.”
   “I’ll bet the view is great from up there,” Doug said wistfully. “Like to climb one myself and see just how horizontal this country is. One of my colleagues says the South Plains is so flat you can watch your dog run away for three days!”
   Maggie laughed as Sharon rolled her eyes, groaning, “Old joke, Darling. What’d you find on Llano Estacado?”
  Doug opened a coffee table-sized book and explained, “The most accepted theory is that Coronado named it himself after seeing the Caprock Escarpment northeast of here. Estacado can be translated as ‘palisaded,’ which means a wall of wooden stakes used as a defensive barrier. The cliffs of the caprock were described by Coronado as an impenetrable defense for the land. 
  “A second theory is that because the land is so flat and open, there were no landmarks of any kind to guide travelers across this ‘sea of grass.’ So Indians, and then Spaniards, would drive tall stakes into the ground at certain points as guides across the terrain. They ‘staked out’ a trail.

   “Others say yucca flower stalks served as stakes to tether horses on the open plains. But the most recent theory, which I think is extremely interesting, was proposed by a Spanish-speaking Tech student — Llano Estacado could be a bastardization of llano estancado, meaning ‘plain of many ponds.’ ”
  “Referring to the playas?” Sharon asked. 
   “Definitely. There are thousands of the shallow depressions here on the South Plains. They fill up with water during rains and then don’t drain well because of the hard caliche soil they’re made from, so they support the wildlife around here. Without the playas, we wouldn’t see the migration of those Canada geese you like, or several other species. Anyway, I think it’s quite possible estancado is the right theory.”
  “Hard to know which one is correct without all the facts,” I said, a twinkle probably forming in my eye. “ Maybe we could pile all the theories together? Let’s see, ‘Francisco Vásques de Coronado came upon the caprock that looked like a stockade, scaled the palisades to conquer the land, found full playas and stakes made of yucca plants dotting the landscape, so he watered and then tethered his horses. Llano Estacado Etancado!’ ”
   Sharon groaned, “That was as pathetic as Doug’s joke. Good thing you don’t write history for a living, Maggie.”

    The next day, I was sitting in the office writing—not exactly about history, but about the future—and a recent generous donation by an alumnus for a nondenominational chapel to be built on campus. What a great idea. They plan to place it near the alumni center on the southeast corner of campus. Perfect for weddings —just a few steps over to the alumni center for the reception. And for quiet reflection? There were many times in college I would have liked to have a quiet place to pray and meditate. Hope they keep it open for student use 24/7. 
I was also thinking about the graduation ceremonies I’d attended last weekend. My first at Texas Tech since my own long ago, I was impressed with the pomp and circumstance and the excitement of the graduates and their parents, but was disappointed Interim President Bennett Boyle represented the university. Although donned in regalia as all the other assembled faculty and administrators—although his gown looked ancient and musty— he was the only one without a mortar board, tam or cap on his head. He probably didn’t want to muss his helmet hair. Not only did he look out of place without a hat of some type, but he also gave a lackluster speech and showed no enthusiasm for the proceedings, as if he couldn’t wait to get out of the arena. Not a good way to impress the Regents, although that might be a good thing for all concerned. 
   Luckily, a keynote speaker had been engaged months ago by the former president. Rousing the crowd to laughter and tears, she did an outstanding job and received a standing ovation. The contrast between the two, as Winston might say, was “mindbludgeoning.”

   The next day, I came back from a quick lunch to find Elaine fuming once again. She had passed Allison in the hallway. Boyle’s new assistant made another racial remark, under her breath, but loud enough for Elaine to hear. Although tempted again to deck the stupid twit, Elaine instead reported it to me as I had requested. I calmed her down, then gave her a gift. (More about that in a minute.) 
Later that afternoon, another gift arrived. Elaine brought in a package delivered through campus mail. It was an expensively framed surprise from Winston. As I looked for a place to hang it, Elaine read it out loud: 
JABBERWOCKY by Lewis Carroll
(From Through the Looking-Glass 
and What Alice Found There, 1872)
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!
He took his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe he sought— So rested he by the Tumtum tree, And stood awhile in thought.
And as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! and through and through The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back.
And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! He chortled in his joy.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

   This morning, another present arrived, this one enjoyed by the entire building, with the exception of Bennett Boyle.  Allison turned in her resignation, effective immediately, saying her brother desperately needed her to help him out at his construction business in Amarillo. She packed up her nail polish, juicy fruit, glamour photo, purple elephant and left. She didn’t want the plant.
   Only Elaine and University Counsel Bobby Jones and I know what really happened. After the hallway insult last week, the gift I had given Elaine was the tape from a small recorder I’d had in my pocket the morning I retrieved my plant. It contained Allison’s racial slurs, loud and clear. Elaine took the tape to Bobby Jones and filed a formal complaint against Allison for racial discrimination and harassment. 
   Bobby Jones called Allison into his office to discuss her options. She opted to resign.
   The job opening has been posted. I understand Miss Katherine will not apply. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011 Chapter 18

   A few minutes early for my Thursday lunch date with Dr. Whitaker, I waited in the foyer of Café J, the quaint-yet-sophisticated restaurant just south of campus on 19th Street near University Avenue. I’d been delighted to discover its interesting and elegant cuisine in a city more well-known for barbeque and chicken-fried steak. Café J’s website declares, “Blending French techniques with Southwestern influences, an extensive wine selection, and original paintings — haute cuisine meets impeccable hospitality and service.”
   I had eaten here at least half a dozen times since my arrival in March and agreed whole-heartedly with the description. The original artwork was an interesting and ever-changing part of the ambience. 
   That was another surprise. The art scene in Lubbock seemed to be vibrant. Learning of monthly art walks and several active galleries, I was pleased to find a much more broad-based variety of art than the expected genre of western landscapes and Cowboy campfire scenes. 
   Certainly it must be due almost entirely to the art professors at Tech. Their department had grown significantly since I was a student, with a few of my old professors still teaching classes today. 
Shortly after arrival in March, I was looking for Tech T-shirts for my granddaughters in the campus bookstore. Low and behold, there was Terry Morrow, my printmaking professor from more than 30 years ago — one of my favorite teachers. Confessing he didn’t remember all his students from years gone by — at least not by their faces or names— he thought perhaps if I could show him some of my college artwork? That, he was certain, he would remember. I only have one piece he might recognize, a woodblock print from his class, but it was currently buried somewhere in storage. Maybe another time I might show it to him. Funny, he hadn’t looked too much older than me that day ... must have been just out of school himself when I was a student, but my memory of him was of a much older professor. Appearances could be deceiving, couldn’t they?

   Dr. Whitaker and I settled into a corner table at Café J, scanning the mouth-watering menu. He opted for salmon salad with champagne vinaigrette, served on a bed of mixed greens with cherry tomato, red onion, cashews, asiago cheese and poached pears. As usual, I ordered the seafood crepes, salmon and shrimp, topped with Swiss cheese and a white wine lemon dill sauce, served with vegetable medley. But being considerate of my waistline, I opted for one crepe instead of the normal two or three. 
   We exchanged pleasantries until the food arrived. After his first bite, which he enjoyed with a wide grin and closed eyes, Whitaker looked at me with what I thought was admiration. “My dear Mrs. Grant, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your work with our donation publicity. Our patron was pleased as punch. We shall need to work together more often.”

“I’d like that,” I said sincerely. 
   “And I do apologize for exploding at you over the phone earlier that morning,” Whitaker said. “I was just so upset about the lack of coverage. I can’t believe Bennett didn’t tell you, or ask for your assistance.” 
  “You haven’t told Mr. Boyle about what we did, have you?”
  “Oh, no, my dear. Better to let him have the illusion of glory. No sense rocking the boat, you know what I mean?”

“Yes, I do. Have you known him long, Dr. Whitaker?

“Windy. You must call me Windy, please. And yes, I’ve known Bennett Boyle a long time. I must say, I was quite amused the other day ... the plant drama, you know what I mean? Brilliant way to handle the situation, Mrs. Grant, just brilliant. Perfect way to work with Bennett.”
   “Thank you, Windy, but now must call me Maggie, please. And I wonder if you could tell me a little more about him, if you wouldn’t mind. I’m, well ... if I knew more about him, maybe I could ...” 
   “Giving you a hard time, is he? Interfering in your work?” 
   I smiled but kept silent.
   Winston patted my hand, saying, “That’s just his style. Never been an especially happy person. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t remember seeing him smile in years! What a shame. Life should be lived to its fullest, don’t you think?”
   At that, I nodded in definite agreement, but wanted more. “Is he married? Children?”

“B.J.? Oh, heavens no!” laughed Winston.
   “He’s not ... ?” I left the question unsaid.
   “Gay? Oh, definitely not. He doesn’t join me in that particular persuasion.”

“I didn’t mean to ...” I said quickly.
   “No, no. No offense taken. I’m quite comfortable with my choices and preferences in that area, you know what I mean? And these days it’s perfectly acceptable to come out ... even in West Texas. Well, in some of West Texas. But Bennett is definitely straight. Just look at his new secretary. He certainly didn’t hire her for her brains. What’s her name again?”

“Allison.” I almost spat it out.
   “Yes, yes. Allison. Oh, don’t worry, my dear. I’m sure our little Miss Allison won’t last long. Stupid idea of Bennett’s. Don’t know what he was thinking. Every few years he does something like this. Just can’t seem to help himself, I guess.

   “However, it certainly worked out in my favor, you know what I mean? Miss Katherine reported to the museum yesterday and I think we’re a perfect fit for her. I’ve admired her work and style for many years. She’ll be there this afternoon, in fact. She’s joining us on the tour to learn more about my windmills. Absolutely delightful woman. I couldn’t be happier!”

   At that, we continued to enjoy their well-prepared lunches, Winston insisting on ordering two decadent desserts. His was black forest gâteau, a nine-layer chocolate cake with black cherries soaked in kirsch and topped with whipped crème. For me, he ordered a southern fusion buttermilk tart with fresh seasonal fruit compote nestled underneath, and topped with Greek yogurt ice cream. Protests about the calories fell on deaf ears. After the first bite, wasn’t I glad he had been insistent — it was heavenly. I vowed to swim extra laps that evening.
  “You simply must try this one also, my dear Maggie. It’s simply ‘deliciaromanious’!”
   “‘De-lic-i-ar-o-manious’?” I laughed. “What kind of a word is that, Windy?”
   “It’s not a word. It’s jabberwocky.”

“Jabberwocky? From Through the Looking Glass? The poem by Lewis Carroll?”
   “Excellent, my dear. You’ve been well educated!”
   “I am a Tech grad, after all.”
   “Ah, yes, so you are. We are an intelligent group, are we not?” he said proudly. “Jabberwocky is nonsense speech or writing that gives the appearance of making sense. You understood what I meant, didn’t you?”
   “I did ... it’s delicious and smells wonderful. But why not just say that?” I asked, chuckling again.

   “Because it’s more fun to make the words up, you know what I mean? And it’s a necessary part of my persona,” he said, shrugging matter-of-factly, finishing his last bite of cake.

   “Your persona? What does that mean?”

He looked at me squarely for a long moment. “How old do you think I am?”

I studied his face, his light blue eyes set between long, but neatly trimmed thick shock-white hair and an equally thick white mustache. Bushy white eyebrows drooped over his eyelids and nearly met in the middle. Ben Franklin bifocals rested on the end of his rather pinkish nose. His facial features were soft and rounded. He wore a light brown linen suit, darker brown vest, heavily starched white dress shirt replete with gold cufflinks— miniature windmills, no less — and his usual bow tie, pocket watch and chain. Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit came to mind, the one who led Alice down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.

   “How old?” I said confidently. “A lot younger than you want me to think.”
   He laughed out loud, saying, “I do like you, Mrs. Maggie Grant!” Then pulling out his watch as if he’d read my thoughts, he added in perfect imitation of the White Rabbit, “ My goodness, we’re late! So that’s a discussion for another time. My windmills don’t like to be kept waiting, you know what I mean? Waiter? Check, please.”
Though the Looking Glass, is, of course, Alice in Wonderland. Scared me silly when I was a child, even though I don’t think Disney intended it to. The recent Johnny Depp version was interesting, and he did utter some jabberwocky. Of all the great Disney stories, the cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland is the one I didn’t buy for my boys, and hopefully, the granddaughters haven’t been subjected to it either. Maybe when they’re older. Scared me silly, it did.