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J.A. Aarntzen

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Hydra - Part Two
By J.A. Aarntzen
Monday, May 19, 2008

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Recent stories by J.A. Aarntzen
· The Redeemer Part 33
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           >> View all 143


This is the second instalment of the 1994 story. Jasmine feels like she is going crazy. There are just too many coincidences going on in her life.

Hydra - Part Two

Four or five minutes must have passed before she dared to take her hands from her ears. Everything was silent outside of Alex Trebek reading one of the answers in the Double Jeopardy round. Alex had come to the rescue again.
 
With some trepidation, she came out of the bathroom. Her ears were perked for any slight suggestion that there might be somebody else in the house. She could see the driveway through the window and there was only their car in it.
 
It was safe to enter the living room again. "Who was that at the door?" she asked, trying to sound composed and in control of herself.
 
"Just the papergirl. It's collection day again," Tony grunted. "Did you die in there - it took you so long!"
 
The comment wasn't worthy of a reply so Jasper chose to ignore it. She sat down on the couch to watch the final moments of Double Jeopardy. Once again, the categories were safe. One contestant, a man in a naval uniform, had a sizeable lead on his competitors. He was a shoo in to win the game. He had only to wager a thousand dollars in Final Jeopardy and he was sure to have more than the maximum his nearest moment could achieve by betting it all.
 
"The category for today's final jeopardy is science fiction," host Alex Trebek announced.
 
"Well, I'll be!" laughed Tony. "Another coincidence! Isn't those little spacemen you write about considered science fiction, Jas?"
 
"How do you know what I write about? You've never taken the time to read anything of mine!" Jasper was a little unnerved that even her beloved Jeopardy was part of this conspiracy to unravel her. She couldn't recall science fiction ever being a category for the final. It must have been though. It comes up a category in the regular part of the game now and then. She was going to have to learn not to be so attenuated to those elements of her recent attention. Science fiction was a perfectly valid category. It couldn't be considered out of the realm of the plausible and ordinary.
 
"I never read what you write because you never let me! You are always hiding it from me like a dog hides its bones," Tony replied. "Sometimes I think that you are writing letters to a secret lover," he smirked. Tony was not a jealous man nor was Jasper one to instill jealousy.
 
"Ssssh! Alex is back, I want to hear the answer!" she snapped and leaned forward toward the television so that she could not be interupted by her husband.
 
"Today's Final Jeopardy answer is," the screen switched from Alex Trebek to the monitor that housed the day's brain teaser. Even though she could read, 'The Riverworld Series is this prolific author's most famous works.', what Jasper heard instead of Alex's voice was another voice calling out "Jasper Reid!"
 
The voice didn't come from the television. She instinctively looked at Tony but the voice wasn't his, not even in disguise. He, too, had a querolous expression on his face. He was looking outside of the window. "Someone is out there," he lowed somberly. Tony was afraid. She was afraid.
 
"Jasper Reid! I know that you are in there!" the voice spoke again from the other side of the front door.
 
Jasper did not know what to do. Tony did not know what to do. Crime had never really visited upon them and their household. In fact, crime was comparatively lower in their town than to similar towns within the state. Even with this security, the Reids were more precautious than their neighbours. If they hadn't been hit by a crime yet all that meant was that their time was coming. Both felt that the time might be at hand.
 
"Ask who is out there?" Jasper whispered to her husband.
 
"I'm going to call the police," Tony whispered back. He was not one to flirt with potential disaster.   He had seen too many news reports and TV shows that depicted this kind of thing.
 
"Don't be silly!" Jasper griped. "What if it is one of the neighbours? They won't think much of us if we had their asses hauled off to jail over this."
 
"Our neighbours knock at the door. They don't call out our names in the dark," Tony responded, picking up the phone and dialing 9-1-1.
 
"Put that phone down now. I'll go answer the door!" She moved toward the front door.
 
He reached out with his arm and grabbed her by the tails of her top. "Oh no you don't! No wife of mine is going to have her head blown off."
 
"Tony, let go!" she struggled to break free at the same time as her name was called out again from the other side of the door.
 
Jasper was about to answer out loud to the mysterious guest when she saw a shadow move across the front room window. A gloom swept over her. No neighbour of theirs moved with the furtive deliverance as that shadow. She gasped. "Did you see that?" she whimpered through a shallow breath.
 
"I did!" The feel of Tony's hands suddenly went cold. "Who could it be?"
 
"9-1-1." the speaker telephone announced.
 
"Yes, this is Tony Reid of 2010 15th Street. We have a prowler in our yard. Can you send someone over right away?" Tony's voice was quivering and showed evidence that he might break down into tears.
 
"Has the prowler attempted to enter your home?" the operator replied stentortorially.
 
"No. He just keeps calling out my wife's name."
 
"Do you know who the perpetrator might be?"
 
"I haven't a clue who the guy is. All I know is that he has gone around to our backyard. Listen my wife and I are being terrorized. Can't you get someone here now?" Tony was in hysterics.
 
"Listen Tony, it's Janice McGregor," the operator announced her identity. "My husband gets his haircut at your barbershop all the time."
 
"Hi Janice," Tony said with a surprise on his face. "Jas, the 9-1-1 girl is Janice McGregor."
 
Jasper recognized the name. Janice McGregor was one of the biggest gossips in town. An emergency response operator was an ideal job for a busybody like her. "This is no time to catch up with old times Tony. Is she sending anybody down here to help us?"
 
"Tell Jasper not to worry. A cruiser is already on it's way down." Janice must have heard Jasper through the phone. "Tell me Tony, are you and Jasper planning to go to the dance this weekend at Veteran's Hall? You know that they have got Hydra playing there. You must have heard of them. They are from across state and they have cut an album that all the country stations are playing."
 
"No, I never heard of Hydra," Tony answered. 
 
At the mention of the taboo word, Jasper broke free from Tony's grip. She silently mouthed "Hydra?" Then in open voice she said, "When are the police going to get here? There's a stranger outside and who knows what his purpose is!"
 
"Janice says relax. They should be here any minute," Tony said, pulling the receiver from his mouth while rolling his eyes. Jasper knew what that signified. When Janice McGregor starts talking it would take a lightning bolt explosion at her feet to get her to stop.
 
Without telling Tony her purpose, she went to the bedroom of their two bedroom bungalow to see if she could spot the trespasser in the backyard. She didn't turn on the light. Her heart was racing, this was reckless what she was doing but she could not stand there and do nothing. Cautiously, she peeked through the curtains. The neighbour's backlight was on and put their own yard into semi-shadows. The bedroom's view and the shadows only gave her a cryptic view of the yard. She couldn't see anything with certainty. There was a slight breeze outside that caused the bushes to sway creating motion that added to her problem.
 
She went to the bathroom to see if it offered a better vista. It showed the other portions of the yard that were concealed from the bedroom. Still there were a lot of shadows out there and if the intruder were out there he could rest in them without fear of being seen.
 
"Jasper, where are you?" Tony called out.
 
It was time to give up. The man had probably gone and when she returned to the living room she told Tony so. An hour later, a police cruiser pulled into the driveway. It was a long hour for Jasper and her husband as they each wrangled in their minds whether it was safe to let down their guard.
 
An officer came to the door while another scooted around the house. "You called about a prowler?" the female cop asked when both Tony and Jasper answered the door.
 
"That was an hour ago!" Tony burst out. "We could have been killed by the time you got here!"
 
The policewoman smirked and did not respond to Tony's charges. "Do you have any idea who might be trying to distress you?" she looked directly at Jasper as if she knew that the visitor had come for the woman.
 
"No, not really." Jasper answered.
 
"Listen, we don't socialize with any unsavoury elements in this town," Tony cut in. "I am a local businessman and I have to maintain proper social contacts. Nobody I befriend would call out my wife's name in the dark. They would all come to the door and ring the doorbell like civilized humans do."
 
"I know who you are," the policewoman said. "My father has been getting his haircut at your place for years."
 
"I'm sorry, I should have recognized you," Tony apologized. "You're Neil Leggatt's little girl, aren't you? Neil told me that he had a daughter on the force. Katty, isn't it?"
 
"I have always hated that name," the officer admitted. "My Dad calls me that, but everybody else knows me by Kate."
 
"Well Kate, I'm glad to have had this chance to finally meet you. I have heard so much about you. Your Dad is really proud of you. He tells me all sorts of stories about your adventures as a policewoman," Tony said.
 
"I'm sure that he exaggerates! Being on the force in this town is almost as quiet as being a Maytag repairman!" Officer Kate laughed.
 
"If it is so quiet, what took you so long to get here!" Jasper slurred. She had enough of this small town small talk. There was a prowler at their house an hour ago and so far nothing had been done about it.
 
At that moment the other officer came from around the side of the house. "There's not a sign of anybody around here. Nothing has been disturbed," he announced.
 
"Hi ya, Bronco," Tony said to the overweight graying cop.
 
"Hey Tony! I thought that this was your place. How ya doing?" Bronco laughed jovially.
 
This time Jasper rolled her eyes. It seemed her husband was connected to just about everybody in town. More small talk was sure to ensue and she was desperate for the affair to be settled.
 
"I've had better days," Tony answered. "Someone in this town is trying to harass my wife. You know Jasper, don't you Bronc?"
 
"Actually I have seen her driving around town. She's got somewhat of a leadfoot but I've never had the pleasure to actually meet her." He extended out his hand towards Jasper.
 
"That's what I tell her all the time. You drive too fast Jasper. You're lucky Bronco hasn't written you up a ticket yet." Tony was being ingratiating towards the officer and Jasper hated it when he acted this way because he was liable to cast off any husbandly loyalty towards her.
 
"Do you have any idea about who might be trying to bother you?" Officer Kate asked Jasper.
 
Once again, Tony took the initiative to speak for his wife. "We are honest, law-abiding citizens. We seek no quarrel with anybody and thus far nobody has sought a quarrel with us. Jasper keeps to herself quite a bit and she wouldn't antagonize anybody. It's not in her nature."
 
Jasper was somewhat nonplussed at Tony's verbosity. She was a grown woman, she could answer for herself. This was her opportunity to let the police know of Sayedh Ellis whom she suspected was the antagonist. In a town where everybody knew everybody else, someone should have some details on this mysterious character that couldn't have possibly been conjured up by her writing. This was her chance but Tony was taking it away from her.
 
"We live in a very peaceful community," Officer Bronco began. "I'm sure that there is a nonsinister explanation for your visitor. Nobody here wants to hurt the best barber in town nor his wife. If that were to happen, we all might as well become hippies because we would never get a good haircut again."
 
Tony chuckled. "I think you have only a few more years left where you would be eligible for a haircut Bronco."
 
The robust officer took off his cap to reveal a chronic receding hairline that no amount of crosscombing could conceal. "I guess that you are right."
 
"We do have products coming onto the market though that might be able to alleviate your problem," Tony offered his professional advice.
 
"Are you talking about rogaine with monoxydome or whatever that is called? I see commercials for that all the time on the tube. They always say to ask your doctor about it." Bronco was genuinely concerned about his fate of baldness.
 
"You have to remember that in the middle ages, it was us barbers who were considered to be the surgeons. We worked miracles with our bloodletting techniques and our leeches," Tony laughed.
 
This brought laughter from all present except for Jasper who desperately wanted to slip back inside and forget all about what was going on.
 
"No, but seriously Bronco, there is a new product coming out that is being manufactured by a company that has some local ties here. This product is supposed to stimulate the scalp with some sort of protein compound that will generate regrowth," Tony explained.
 
"Really? What's the name of this product?" Bronco asked.
 
"It's called by a technical name. I think it is called Spyromataculous or something like that. Ellis and Ellis out of Michigan are the people making it."
 
"Ellis and Ellis, I have heard of them. I read in the This Week that they have made an offer to buy the old Calypso Dance Studio and convert it into a small warehouse," Officer Kate said.
 
"Yeah, I read that too," Bronco added. "It's supposed to create about fifty new jobs in the town. Have they got approval for it yet?"
 
This was getting far too unreal for Jasper. How the hell could her completely fabricated name of Spyromataculous have a real world antecedent? There was no rational explanation. She never ever looked at Tony's trade magazines. There was no way that she had previous exposure to Spyromataculous. And then there was that Ellis again - and that Michigan, and that Calypso. Was this some sort of elaborate hoax that somebody was playing on her? Someone had to be reading her writing and working out a major practical joke based on it. Yet, nobody was looking at her out of the corner of the eye to see if she was falling for the gag. Everybody's behaviour just did not jibe with typical jokester traits. This was not a joke, this was for real.
 
After about another twenty minutes of conversation, the officers finally left to do whatever they do. Tony and Jasper went back inside where Jasper announced that she was going to bed. She was fed up, she had enough of this quirky day.
 
Her sleep was surprisingly undisturbed. All the incongruencies of the past two days did not fester in her mind. She was able to dream easily and was not haunted by the odds and ends of her unresolved conflicts. She woke up refreshed and she promised herself that she would not allow herself to sink into the doldrums of her misgivings as she had the previous two days.
 
After driving Tony to the barbershop and doing a bit of groceries at the supermarket, she came home and decided that she was going to fill her day by writing. It was what she wanted to do most. These outward manifestations of a writer's block were not going to make her give up what she considered a passion of hers.
 
Before she took her pen in hand, she precautiously took the phone from the receiver. The answering machine could do its job on its own today. And to prevent the door from interupting her, she donned a set of headphones and cranked the stereo with her Vangelis CD's. She was going to be in writer's heaven.
 
The shadows upon the lake shifted with a wraith's whimsy dispersing ambient colours upon the retinas of their witness. The wind was cool upon his fur yet it ignited within him the desire to continue exploring the new terrain that had opened up on him after he had scaled the summit of the mountain. He kept a watchful eye above, wary of the eagles that were known to frequent this country. There is never complete serenity when you are born a rodent. There is always something that wants to tear you away from your dreams. Stravinsky was ....
 
No, I better not use Stravinsky, Jasper said aloud. She'd be liable to hear the composer on the radio or see a commercial about him on TV. No, I won't use Stravinsky.
 
Cordureesusaz was ....
 
Cordureesusaz, what the hell kind of name is that! There couldn't be a real world counterpart to that name but it was such a stupid grouping of vowels and consonants. 'I've got to think up a better name than that!'
 
Sector was ...
 
Sector was what? Jasper's train of thought had been disrupted. She could no longer think of what kind of story she wanted to create. A story about mice was her original intention but she never cared much for rodent stories save maybe 'Watership Down'. She was not well-learned in mouse behaviour and what would motivate a mouse that was around an alpine lake. This story was not working. She took the piece of paper and tore it up in her hands and promptly swallowed it piece by piece. "There," she said in a clear voice and then silently she added, "I dare anybody or anything to come up to me today and mention Stravinsky, Cordureesusaz, or Sector."
 
Feeling disconcerted that she had failed at creating any new fiction today, she turned off the stereo and went into the kitchen deciding that if she couldn't be a writer this day, she could be a master chef instead. Food was just as artistic a medium for self-expression as the written word. She pulled out her photo album where she kept all her favourite recipes and thumbed through it looking for something that would both satisfy her need to create and cook and what items she had in her pantry. She finally opted for an Indonesian dish that someone had given her years ago. It was called nazi goring, at least that is what she wrote it down as. Her source did not know the proper name for the dish either. She wondered if this rice, cabbage, currie and pork chop dish had anything to do with the man in charge of the Luftwaffe in Hitler's Germany.
 
As she chopped up the green peppers, onions, and cabbages, she had the pork chops frying at a high heat. This dish was certainly going to be spicy. She loved spicy meals, too bad that Tony didn't. He says that they give him heartburn and she had to admit that hot peppers did not sit well with her either. Why was she forging ahead with this meal then? She lost heart rapidly and soon was turning off the heat on the pork chops and scraping her chopped vegetables into the garbage.
 
What was going on with her? She was quitting everything that she had started. Maybe she should have never given up her job at the community library three months ago. Her life had shape back then. She was near books that she loved. Her life now was amorphous and she was failing at writing books that she could never love.
 
She thought that she could love the unstructured life - no having to live by anybody else's timetable or demands. All the impetus in life would be internally driven. But now, that she went out ahead and given herself that Bohemian existence, she found that the essence that was Jasper Reid, had disappeared with the daily rigours of holding down a job. Why do anything now that you could put off until later? It took her three months to even get close to writing again even though she had no viable reason to procrastinate from it. Maybe in her heart she knew that she would never get published and without that goal, it made the entire exercise futile. Why write? The fantasy of becoming famous after she died when some literary critic stumbles upon her work and pushes it into the international limelight was not very realistic. All those handwritten manuscripts of hers that were stacked in the corner of the basement storage room would eventually make their way to the paper recycling bin. Tony would not even think of presenting them to the local literati that might enter his barbershop for a haircut. Nobody had ever actually read any of her work although most of her friends knew that writing was one of her pet hobbies. She felt that what she presented on paper was not quite ready to be put to the scrutiny of even her friends. So why was she writing?
 
She mulled over this question and found herself going to the refrigerator and taking a can of Tony's beer. Why was she writing? Self expression? Self satisfaction? Possibly. But when she used to write years ago she did it with the aim of being published and famous. That had pushed her on to actually complete her stories. But now she found that she didn't even truly desire such notoriety. She did not want to sit in a bookstore in Seattle and autograph copies of her work. She did not want to do the talkshow circuit. She was a homebody, she wanted to be nothing more than part of the wallpaper. She did not want to be the centrepiece on the table. So why was she putting herself through the struggle to find if there was something in her head that could translate to paper and give her catharsis while she transposed these thoughts from her mind onto the other medium? She didn't have to. She didn't have to make fancy Indonesian dishes either. All that she needed to be was herself, whatever the hell that meant. She had another beer and was growing comfortable with the idea that she did not have to be anything else but herself and then she started to make supper, a tossed salad and a quick tuna casserole. Tony needed to loose some weight. She did too. Losing weight was an admirable goal, she didn't have to be an Ernest Hemingway or even a Phillip Jose Farmer.
 

Once everything was ready, she got into the car to pick up Tony. Her mood for the first time in days was light. The burden of having to write the next great American novel had been lifted from her. She was free to pursue whatever she wanted and she was sure that all that she wanted was her life with Tony in this small town - just to grow older and slimmer and cherish the time that they had. Happiness does not have to be found at the end of a rainbow. You don't have to make some epic journey through dark lands to live happily ever after. Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz had it right, if you can't find it in your own backyard then you probably won’t find it anywhere.

       Web Site: Storyteller On The Lake

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