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~A Short Story~
The sun was high in the sky on this June day in JacksonvilleFlorida. What grass had grown in Dread’s yard was looking more on the brown side. Surely it was a challenge to get a lawn in green grass shape with the sandy soil to contend with and really hot days like these. The humidity level was making the whole day seem more scorching than usual, but that didn’t seem to faze Dread, because he loved the sultry weather.
Fumbling a bit Dread carried his groceries through the paint pealing light blue front door he always intended to repaint. With a hoist of the bags he put the first load on the kitchen counter that divided the small living room from the kitchen. When he went back to get the last bags in the car Dread was careful to still shut the house door incase any of those pesky pigmy rattlesnakes thought to venture in. Lately there was a problem with those varmints hanging around his so called yard.
Now you must know that Dread was not what his parents named him and it was merely a nick name that most people called him by. Dreads true God given name was James Paul Dorey. He was given the nick name Dread because of his exceptionally long locks that he grew all the way down to his tail bone. These dreads curled neat and tightly all the time made Dread very distinctive and well known in the area. Luckily Dread was a very gregarious man and enjoyed all the friendly attention he always came across.
Dread was a very tall man about six foot four and kept his body very buffed for a forty two year old man. He had luscious dark ebony skin that he kept soft and smooth with a constant use of coco-butter. What really made Dread even more unusual looking; well really you could even say exotic in appearance was his wide angel eyes that were a green hazel sometimes with the glimmer of ocean blue. To say the least Dread was a very handsome and stunning man that kept women taking a second glance where ever he ventured. Most women in describing him would say he was almost a god. Today he had on his customary tan cargo shorts, a fitted muscle baby blue shirt, and his typical leather sandals.
Dread had most of the groceries put away when the phone rang. Before he even answered it he had an idea who it could be. Yup and that is who it was, his next door neighbor Mary-Marie Berber. Almost everyday Mary-Marie called him or he checked in on her. Today he had also picked some groceries up for her at the store as routinely he did. You see Mary-Marie was in her nineties and couldn’t get around easily as well she had no relatives in the area nor did she ever have any children; and Dread sort of took her under his wings. Every day he made sure he checked in on her as a predictable habit.
As standard procedure Dread would go off to work about seven thirty in the morning; arriving at his job in the main office of the Adway Insurance Company no later than eight o’clock where much of the day he manually rated mathematically various insurance policies for the agency. Dread was very good at his job, and that was a good thing not really looking like your typical businessman given he sported dreads with his suits. Normally from the office Dread would go straight home, but there was an exception on grocery shopping days. Generally in the evenings Dread might have a class he was taking at the adult learning center; or could be found at the local YMCA playing basketball with a few guys that liked to keep in shape in the sport.
Mary-Marie had just phoned to see if he was going to bring her groceries soon, even though she could see Dreads house easily through her picture window and could tell that he would be over shortly with her items; Mary-Marie was anxious to see Dread so she couldn’t help but call him. Dread never minded her calls or helping Mary-Marie out because he found her a delightful cute woman, and it was in Dread’s nature to be a caretaker type.
Dread hung up the phone and put away the rest of his groceries before he brought Mary-Marie’s over to her. He never knew how long it would take at her house so it was important for him to put his perishables away so they wouldn’t spoil while he visited Mary-Marie.
Carrying two armfuls of bags Dread saw Mary-Marie’s front door open for him. Sure enough there was the little lady herself holding the door. Mary-Marie was a white woman but today to Dread she looked a pasty white almost ashen. When Dread met Mary-Marie about ten years ago she was a spry eighty year old that took ball room dance lessons. Now she seemed so much tinier, wrinkled, and sallow. These changes about Mary-Marie rushed through his mind as he plopped her groceries onto her counter that also like his house divided the kitchen and living room. All the houses in the neighborhood on Star Street were made similar and looked a like.
Starr Street was composed of two rows of small ranch houses most built with only two small bedrooms, one bath, a kitchen and living room. All the houses had typically a one car garage attached and a few had added on extra car ports. Mary-Marie’s home like Dreads had only a single garage. All the houses sat in the middle of one acre lots so the whole street looked very regimented.
Even though Mary-Marie had aged greatly in the last ten years, she still wore that same wide smile when she greeted Dread. She was such a sweet woman that many of the other neighbors couldn’t help but check in on her also at times. Dread seemed to tower over her as he stood next to Mary-Marie and it was as if to him her fluffy white as snow hair glowed it was so bright. As she started to put away her groceries Mary-Marie pointed out the plate of brownies she made for Dread to take home with him. It was the least she could do for him after all he did for her. Today the jokingly usual conversation between them went on with no lag; until Dread sat down to have tea with her.
Dread thought some of the fun banter started to get a little on the serious side for Mary-Marie who ordinarily was always light hearted and happy go lucky. But this time a few of the things she said almost sounded serious? Mary-Marie for some uncommon reason made a statement like “she was on her last leg”. Finding this statement curious and out of character Dread asked if Mary-Marie was feeling under the weather, but Mary-Marie just brushed the question off like it was just her spouting off and there was nothing to worry about. Another fifteen minutes went by before Dread could say good bye and get back to his own home. He still had to hop in the shower before he was off to the class he signed up for on water color painting.
Weeks flew by as always and there was only one week left to Dreads water color class before the next one started in oil painting. Dread constantly liked to stay busy so it was a no brainer for him to take these different wonderful classes almost all year round.
The wind that hardly ever appeared was blowing lightly today as a mist of rain showers went through the area. Dread pulled into his driveway toting the groceries he bought for himself and Mary-Marie. The day had a gloomy feel to it, but that didn’t stop Dread from being his chipper self. Like he always did Dread took in his groceries and put them away before he brought Mary-Marie hers. This time he rushed faster than usual because he was anxious about how Mary-Marie was doing lately. This time there was no call from Mary-Marie hurrying him; which was a little unusual but none the less Dread walked over to Mary-Marie’s house arms full with her groceries.
Curiously this time the door didn’t open by Mary-Marie; as a matter of fact Dread had to put the bags down to knock on the door? Strangely there was no answer? Dread now was thinking the worst as he scampered to Mary-Marie’s secret key’s hiding spot in the back yard.
Dread quickly unlocked the door all the time calling Mary-Marie’s name. But there was no answer? That is when he saw her on the sofa like she was sleeping, but Dread already knew Mary-Marie was not in a normal sleep, but in her final rest. How terrible! Dread tried to focus on what to do next, now he had found his dear friend dead! He decided to call the police and the only thing he could think to dial was nine-one-one. The police were there in a jiffy and with Dreads help were able to contact the nearest relatives of Mary-Marie that he knew of. When he could assist the police no more Dread headed to go back home which seemed like the coldest longest walk in the world to him right now.
At home now, still stunned from finding his sweet friend was deceased, Dread started to shake and than the tears flowed. Dread thought to himself “Poof!” “How could she be there one day and so swiftly gone the next?” “Oh how he was going to miss Mary-Marie.”
A month went by and still Dread would have his dear friend Mary-Marie on his mind. Dread often wondered if she was in Heaven looking down on him? This particular day was the grocery run day, and now it always seemed so empty without having to get Mary-Marie’s groceries too. Dread moved a little bit slower now than he use to bringing the groceries into his house, after all there was no reason to rush any longer without Mary-Marie waiting for him. It still seemed to Dread every day and night his good friend was on his mind, and he also thought positive that eventually he would come to terms in his head why and how come Mary-Marie was no longer around. Dread figured it was normal to have so many thoughts of her still, and it was all a part of the morning process, as well hopefully in time it would get easier and more peaceful to him. It was just that Mary-Marie was such a routine bright spot in his life before, and now it felt so empty and dull.
Just as Dread had put his last grocery item away the phone rang. The voice was familiar to him but he was glad still to be sure when the person announced their name. It was Mary-Marie’s brother Jack on the phone. He asked Dread if the house looked alright and no one was bothering it now that was empty and just to be put on the market. Dread did keep an eye on the house and he was curious what would happen to Mary-Marie house in the future? Now the answer was clear and it was to be sold for liquidation according to her will. Than Jack said something that caught Dread off guard. He told Dread that apparently he was included in Mary-Marie’s will and that he would be contacting him in the near future for the reading of the will. Dread couldn’t imagine Mary-Marie putting him in her will, but it gave him a peaceful gladness that his good friend whom he missed so much thought of him in that way.
Three months had passed and all Mary-Marie’s relatives as well as Dread were gathered in the lawyer’s office for the reading of the will. The atmosphere was peaceful and calm. Mary-Marie had very nice siblings as pleasant as she was. The will was read and astoundingly Dread was left a sizeable amount of money equaling Mary-Marie’s siblings. It stated in her will for his friendship and all his care that she wanted Dread to be included in this way. No one in the family begrudged this at all because they knew it was very deserving from how Dread cared for Mary-Marie when they couldn’t be there themselves when she was alive.
Dread never imagined to even have this much money let alone inherit it from someone who wasn’t even a relative per say. As he left the office he was a bit in shock, and yet all he still had on his mind was the thoughts of Mary-Marie and how he still struggled to come to terms with how much he missed her. He drove home from the lawyers very slowly as his mind tried to grab hold of the financial windfall, as well as Mary-Marie and how she seemed even more gone now.
As time went on Dread came to more clearer and peaceful terms with Mary-Marie’s death. He still pondered however what he was going to do with all the money he inherited from her? Finally he started to at least make clear in his mind the most important thing to do with the money. Dread thought the most significant thing to do, was to purchase or do something with the money that would be a happy memory to think of Mary-Marie. The first thing Dread thought to purchase was a tea pot to always remember Mary-Marie by, and the second thing was to take a trip in memory of her, as well he would save most of the money to make life easier for himself which Mary-Marie also stated in her will she wished for him.
So it was settled first thing on Saturday Dread was going shopping to buy the prettiest tea pot he could find, that would always remind him of Mary-Marie. Than starting on Monday he would contact a travel agent to get an idea of what kind of a trip he would take in her memory also. Thirdly he would set up investments with his broker that would also always remind Dread of Mary-Marie.
Everything was complete. A beautiful teapot in memory of Mary-Marie was displayed on Dread’s living room shelves. His broker was affiliated with the Lutheran church which not only gave Dread the opportunity to live off the interest of the money if he wished, but also every year a percentage of the money went to a determined charity which was befitting to the kindness of Mary-Marie’s memory. Now Dread was on a plane heading for a dude ranch in Avon, California for a month vacation.
According to the travel agent the flight was a long one but the destination was well worth the trip. Now on the plane Dread had plenty of time to reflect on his life. Loosing Mary-Marie left him with a big void. He realized now it would be nice for himself to someday have a significant other in his life. He thought how lonely he was lately and how much time had passed, and how he was already forty two with no one special in his life ever. Dread looked at the brochure again of the dude ranch called the Happy Corral. One of the things he was mostly interested in was the riding lessons. Dread had never ridden a horse before, and he always wanted to learn, at the same time thinking it is something he would much enjoy. The ranch was supposed to belong to an older woman named Sally-May Coatfield. Sally-May was a former aviation pilot in her younger days. Therefore there were also small planes and helicopters for the guest to see the land with. Sally-May was a known celebrity having broken some aviation records for women in her day. She kept a clean ranch, which included all the amenities of a top notch resort and more.
Happy Corral had a five star rating, boasting some of the finest foods served in all of California. Dread was looking forward to his two bedroom, two bath suite he had reserved that included its own Jacuzzi, full kitchen, living room, dinning room, and its own private patios. Heck the square footage of half the suite alone was bigger than Dreads house. He definitely was doing this vacation in style! Dread started to day dream if he might meet some famous people there seeing that the Happy Corral claimed of serving the rich and famous.
THE HAPPY CORRAL
Finally the long plane ride had ended. Now Dread was greeted by his personal driver to take him to the Happy Corral which sat in the middle of five thousand acres which bordered almost to Arizona. The ride that was a long one in the desert land seemed to go amazingly quickly with the driver Nick constantly talking as he drove. Mostly Nick filled Dread in on what the ranch was like and all that could be done there. In Nick’s mind the Happy Corral seemed to be like a chunk of Heaven. As they drove up to the massive ranch Dread was so flabbergasted that he saw it as an oasis of a heaven also. As Happy Corral first appeared in the horizon it looked like a giant castle in the middle of a desert mirage. It was unbelievable that out in the middle of no where this massive building existed with practically a town of other buildings! There were cattle kept on the west side grazing as they went by with fields that looked like they struggled to grow greenery, but some how it survived better than Dread’s lawn back home. On the east side Dread could see the same conditions in fields with what looked like hundreds of horses. He was told by Nick that the air fields were hidden by the buildings on the North side, and they were approaching the South Main Entrance.
At the Happy Corral Dread was escorted to his suite that viewed both the south and north area’s and a little of the west cattle fields. The view was spectacular and Dread could see the mountainous view from his second floor balcony. Everything was breath taking, and the amenities were gorgeous!
No sooner did Dread get his belongings unpacked and put away, was there a ringing of his doorbell that chimed like some fine tuned wind chimes. When he opened the door he saw maybe the most beautiful woman he had ever seen! She appeared like an angel to his tired sore eyes. With an upbeat tone she announced herself as his personal guide companion for his stay at the Happy Corral. Her name even sounded good to Dread when he heard it roll off her sensual tongue. She was Jade Chemway and he could call her just plain Jade if he wished. He himself introduced himself to be called Dread as he was accustomed to back home.
Jade Chemway as she stood in the door way announcing herself to James Dorey could barely get her introduction words out as she was very taken aback with this handsome god that opened the door. Jade had never seen such an attractive man in her life. She felt like Dread’s eyes just pierced goose bumps through her very being as she stood there in the door way.
Jade was a gorgeous woman, with striking sky blue eyes. It was a common consensus that she was a beautiful woman and not just a thought that Dread shared and had all to himself. Jade stood about five foot eight inches tall with the longest legs you could put in proportion on a woman’s body. She had wavy to curly strawberry blonde shoulder length hair that flowed with a bouncy movement when she spoke. Jade had the type of heart shaped plump lips that other women only dreamed of having. She stood there in presentable jean shorts and a red checked shirt tied at her waist with red cowboy boots decorated with turquoise gems that matched her jewelry. She looked the part of a sexy cow girl that was ready to show Dread the ropes.
Jade made plans to meet Dread in the main dinning room that evening at seven o’clock of the Happy Corral, where she would dine with him and they would decide on the activities and itinerary for his stay.
This evening Dread dressed in a dark blue casual suit, tying back his long dreads so even more of his princely almond shaped hazel eyes showed off. Jade wore a simple navy blue shift dress that complimented her voluptuous shape, with the classic pearl look for jewelry and matching shoes. She looked absolutely stunning! Dinner went without a hitch and all things to decide seemed to flow easily from helicopter rides, horse back riding lessons, to later maybe learning how to drive and rope cattle.
Later Jade and Dread took an after dinner walk to many of the hot spots, like the main swimming pool and later ended up at a dancing lounge for some good old country music. Dread hadn’t ever had a more exciting time in his whole life, and the company he was in was the best of it all! Jade also hadn’t ever enjoyed her job more; she thought to herself “imagine getting paid to be a companion guide for such a fine looking and acting man!” “I am the luckiest gal in the world!”
Three weeks had flown by! Both Dread and Jade took much extraordinary pleasure in each others company. Dread had learned to horse back ride and he and Jade had taken many long fun rides together in the past three weeks. It was serial when they both took a helicopter flight to look at the surrounding area. They both laughed so hard when Dread tried to rope his first cow. This vacation Dread did not want to end. As he lazed floating in the pool with his glass of wine in hand all Dreads thoughts were on how perfect the whole experience was at Happy Corral.
Dread’s mind drifted on how he only had one more week to go at the Happy Corral. He thought that Happy Corral certainly was a befitting name for this haven, because he certainly hadn’t felt this happy ever. Dreads mind meandered on why he felt so happy? The thought and question that came to mind wasn’t so much that he was on vacation in paradise because he was starting to miss his home a bit, but who was making him happy? Dread didn’t have to think too hard that having Jade as a companion was really the key to his happiness. The fun he had with her was so great it could not be measured. But Dread thought “Was it as much fun for Jade?” “Was she just doing this as her job or did it mean something to Jade also like it did to him?” Dread decided to find out in the next week what Jade felt if anything towards him, because he was thinking he was starting to fall in love with the girl.
In the next week every day Jade and Dread went riding alone. Dread had plenty of time to talk to Jade but he couldn’t get the gumption up to ask her if she felt anything for him. The last week was coming to an end before Dread had to fly back home. It was the last ride Jade and Dread were going to take, and the last chance for Dread to get up the nerve to ask Jade if there was any way she felt something other than her business duty towards him?
Confident both riders were now as they ventured down a steep slope of a rocky trail. Dread was on Satan a shiny all black horse in great contrast to Jade’s all white horse named Angel. The couple was taking the trail slow so the horses wouldn’t loose their footing. Finally they were on level ground and it looked like it would be smoothed riding for a while. This was Dreads chance to talk to Jade as they rode side by side. He just asked Jade if he could ask her a serious personal question, and she had said yes; when all of a sudden there was a rattle snake that spooked Satan into rearing! Dread was caught off guard and from a high saddle tilt lost his grip and fell backwards onto the ground! Dreads head hit a near by rock, and out like a light he went! Not only did he not get his chance to ask Jade his most important question, but now he was unconscious in the middle of no where!
Dread could hear a busy muffled background noise. As his eyes tried to focus he only could see white. Finally his eyes became clearer and he could see he was in something like a hospital room. Dread’s head hurt so much he closed his eyes again for another five hours; and when he opened them again he could hear a very sweet whispered sounding voice say “Well welcome back handsome”. But whose voice was it and where was it coming from? Ultimately Dread’s eyes could see who the voice belonged to. It was Jade leaning in over him.
Jade had been there the whole time Dread was in a comma. She had acted quickly and with almost super human strength that she did not even know herself she had when Dread was laying on the ground unconscious. Jade was able herself to lift Dread dead weight and all over her horse and ride him back to the Happy Corral where a helicopter flew both Jade and Dread to the nearest hospital. In the hospital Dread had been in a comma for three full days.
Dread felt like he had his own personal angel when he saw Jade’s face leaning over him. Once he learned what she had done and the time she spent by his side in the hospital with caring concern, Dread knew without ever getting a chance to ask her his question, he already had the answer.
As Dread stayed another week in the hospital Jade stayed right there beside him. When Dread got the word that he was going to be released from the hospital, Jade was so excited that she lost herself in the moment; bending down and giving Dread a big kiss on the lips! Just at that point Dread responded much more in kind! Dread grabbed Jade and they kissed most passionately! That one zealous kiss turned into many more!
Perfectly healed Dread and Jade the adoring couple arrived back at the Happy Corral. Dread fortunately was able to stay one more week. Dread spent that extra week of vacation at the Happy Corral wooing Jade into marrying him.
Of course Jade had to leave her job at the Happy Corral to live with Dread in Jacksonville, Florida which made her a little sad, but there was no contest to the joy she felt in marrying Dread. Before they left the Happy Corral Dread and Jade had the marriage ceremony there, as well they spent three weeks of a honeymoon there before they flew back to Florida to live.
Now my readers not to worry, Jade and Dread have had a fine prosperous life, and never really wanted for a thing financially nor in any other way. The happy couple ended up with a larger home in Jacksonville, Florida where they raised three fine children whom now have children of their own. Every year Jade, Dread, their children and now grandchildren have spent most of their vacations at the Happy Corral.
If you ever get a chance my peeps to get to stay at the Happy Corral yourself, you might perchance meet up with the Dorey family. Dread will be even now to this day easy to spot with his still long well kept dreads.
Lisa J. Warner
Dedicated to Aunty Mary RIP