Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My Sweet Baby

A Hard Landing

When you make a deal with the Devil, you should expect trouble.

I was in the air about 300 miles south of Georgetown, Guyana, heading south. The sky was partly cloudy and the white, cottony cumulus were pretty to look at, but rough to fly in and around. The late spring tropical air was warm and getting warmer as the late morning approached noon.

I stared at the fuel gauge.

My Maule was specially designed for short landings and takeoffs, and had oversized tires for operating on rough, unpaved runways. She carried 73 gallons of fuel and burned nearly 9 gallons of that fuel each and every hour.

I hadn’t named the aircraft, I never do, but I knew her intimately and cared for her as you would care for the most precious loved one. She would get me to my destination and she would get me back. She would be faithful to me. She would respond to my delicate touch and strain with every ounce of her power to get me in to and out of rough landing zones. She was always a lady.

That deal with the Devil? I had 412 nautical miles to go from departure to destination. I had 412 nautical miles to get back. I was going to burn 49% of my fuel to get to my destination. There would be no room for error.

Back in the good ol’ U S of A this flight wouldn’t be legal. I would be required to carry a 30 minute reserve of fuel. I figured I might have ten minutes reserve, best case, when I returned to Georgetown.

To conserve fuel, I had throttled back to 60% power and was barely making 100 knots. The four hour flight seemed to last forever. And time was precious. The longer it took me to get to the banks of the Isherton River in the far south of Guyana, the more the air heated up. And the more the air heated up, the more turbulent it became. And the more turbulent it became, the higher the towering cumulus grew. And it all led to the potential for powerful afternoon thunderstorms.

I had intended to depart two hours earlier, but Paulo had been late with an invaluable set of maps and surveys the company had sent from Houston. I had paced and paced waiting for him, trying to decide when the go, no-go decision had to be made. Paulo arrived 5 minutes before I would walk away and try another day.

And now I bumped along through the turbulent air, following directions from my GPS, taking a great circle course to my destination.

It was all about oil, you know. There is no place so remote that a good capitalist wouldn’t want to nail down the drilling rights to a new field. It was my job to asses the geography and make recommendations.

Thirty miles out I began the decent. I had started out with the aircraft loaded to its maximum capacity. I would land about 200 pounds lighter, the result of fuel burn. Once I arrived, I would have to locate the best landing spot and get down in a hurry, there was no room for error with such a tight fuel ration. I had studied satellite images with Rob at headquarters and we had determined the most likely place to land an airplane. I only required 500 feet to get down and stopped. My GPS was pointing me directly to that spot.

Rain began to pelt my windscreen as I flew beneath a cumulus that was no longer going to hold its reserve of water. I continued to descend. Though I was directly beneath a dark cloud, I could see patches of sunlight on the ground, sunlight which filtered between the buildups.

I checked the GPS. I was two miles out. I was flying at 500 feet AGL ans straining my eyes to find my landing zone.

I saw lightning hit the ground directly ahead and the boom of thunder filled my ears. A large cell was directly over my landing zone. I looked down at an area that looked flat and landable and decided that this would be a good time to get out of the sky. Careening out of the sky, I flew a tight circle and cross-controlled by jamming a hard-left rudder and heavy right aileron. My baby dropped like a controlled rock. Rain swept across the windscreen as the storm caught up with me. I pushed the Maule to the ground and made solid contact. I bounced. Then I bounced again. The landing zone was rougher than it had looked. I dialed in full flaps and pulled hard back on the elevator, attempting to create as much drag as possible, hoping to slow the plane to a stop quickly.

I hit a rut, the plane lurched, bounced, and rain continued to pelt the windscreen. The right tire found a sizeable hole, dropped in and spun the aircraft in a 270 degree arc. Ingloriously, I was down and stopped.

I was slightly dazed by the abruptness of the landing and a little concerned about the condition of the landing gear. I sat for a minute or two as the rain subsided. A sick feeling hit the pit of my stomach. This was no place to have structural difficulties. There might not be another human being for 200 miles in any direction, or if there were, they would be a tribal people and not of much use for things such as aircraft maintenance and repair. I had a radio, but it was doubtful I could raise anyone directly from such a great distance. I might be able to raise a commercial flight overhead, assuming there were any, and have them pass along a message to the company. One way or the other, having a broken plane would put me in a tough spot.

I descended into a deep loneliness. The storm rumbled off in the distance and faded. Now all was quiet. I stared at the instruments, all displaying no readings of consequence since I had killed the engine. Gloom was settling in and I dreaded getting out of the aircraft.



A tap on the pilot’s side Plexiglas startled me and I nearly hit my head on the ceiling of the cockpit. I wiped the condensation from the Plexiglas and looked into the face of a woman.

Her dark, straight hair was pulled back and she stepped back as I opened the door and stumbled out of the aircraft.

With a grin and hands on her hips she merely said, “Nice landing, Ace.”

Faithfully submitted,

Teddy Packer

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Shark

great white head on
Originally uploaded by ScottS101.

Explaining the Boss

Leah: Part 2

“Ms. Sheffield?” Stanley broke the silence, “Allow me to help you with your locker, we’ll take it below to your cabin.”

“Thanks,” she took one end of the heavy locker while Stanley took the other.

“Pardon me for being forward, but your accent suggests Australia?”

“Yes ma’am, you have a good ear. Care to guess what part?”

“Oh, I haven’t a clue. How about Sydney?”

“Well that’s a good guess ma’am, especially considering its such a large city, but no, I’m originally from Brisbane, but I spent much of my teen years and beyond around Cairns. Did a lot of sailing on the Coral Sea and around the Great Barrier Reef.”

“I should have known, spent some time in Cairns myself.” They worked their way down the companionway ladder and forward toward the awaiting cabin. Negotiating the tight passage was difficult. The locker barely fit through the narrow door into the cabin.

“Clifton Beach, that’s where I stayed when I was doing an assignment there once.”

“Yes ma’am, I know the area. A bit upscale for a roustabout like me.”

Leah answered back with only a smile, no words being necessary to unduly emphasize the difference between a big-city bred world traveler and small town adventurer.

The cabin was tight, but efficient. A narrow berth lined the right side of the cabin. Above it was storage, and to the foot of the berth was a small closet, more of a vertical locker. At the head of the bunk was an ‘L’ shaped desk that was secured against the starboard hull and continued across the opposite side of the cabin from the bed. Above the counter was more secure storage and below was just enough room to stow the foot-locker full of equipment that Leah had brought. The entire cabin was no larger than eight feet deep and six feet wide. Cozy was the right word.

And yet, the cabin had a certain warmth, photographs in frames were secured to the teak paneling with screws. An overhead lamp directed light toward the floor, keeping the ceiling dark and causing the corners to fall off into darkness at night. During the day, as it was now, two 12 inch portals allowed the exterior light to stream across the room.

“It’s warm this time of year and you’re not likely to need more than a sheet, but there are blankets and pillows on the top shelf of the locker,” Stanley pointed to the locker behind the door.

“We have a wet locker on the aft deck to stow your mask, fins, wetsuit, and anything else you got that’s wet.”

Stanley gave a thoughtful look before he continued, “Boss seemed kind of edgy when you came aboard. Don’t put too much into that, he’s usually in a jovial mood. But he do like for everyone to be doing their job. Hasn’t got much patience for incompetence, but on the other side, if you win his respect, you have his loyalty for life.”

“How long have you been with Mr. Packer?”

“Seventh year, ma’am. No two alike, always an adventure.”

“I’ll bet it is.”

“Ma’am, would you like a quick story?”

“Sure, Stanley, go on.”

“Six years ago—I hadn’t been with Mr. Packer all that long—we were diving the wall at Pittstown Point, Bahamas. Well, that wall just drops and goes down to the murky depths. It freaks some people out just being over it.”

“Uh huh.”

“Packer had a half dozen guests on board, two couples and a couple of buddies, they all knew each other through some club. They were all novices, but Packer let ‘em suit up and head into the water.

“It was just Packer and me havin’ to keep an eye an all these folks. Packer gave ‘em plenty of instruction, showed ‘em how all the equipment worked. Explained the buddy system, and went over in detail the currents and what they could do.

“Things went pretty smoothly till one o’ the dames,” Stanley caught himself, smiled, and continued, “excuse me, one of the ladies decided she wanted to see what was over that wall. She just went swimming off by herself all unconcerned. Packer saw she was moving out into an area of current and started after her. We were 50 feet down and he turned and gave me the signal to wrap it up. I got the other folks to understand we were heading back to the boat, time was up on the tanks, and the current was starting to run.

“By the time Ol’ man Packer catches up with her, she’s out in the current and being swept out to sea. She gets over the wall and takes a long, long look down and can’t see anything but deep, deep blue and she starts to panic. Only she can’t get back to the boat or shore because she’s so far out and can’t make progress against the current.

“Packer grabs her and starts to calm her down—signals to start up, then she sees two makos not more than fifty feet away, cruising the wall. It can’t get too much worse, Packer‘s got a panicky swimmer, she sees a pair of sharks, now she wants to go straight up. Packer’s holding her down so she don’t get the bends, keeping an eye on the makos, watching his time piece timing the ascent and trying to calm the lady all at the same time.

“Well all the thrashing is attracting the attention of the makos, which under usual conditions will just leave you alone. They start to circle, not so much to feed but out of curiosity. They’re just dumb fish, what do you expect them to do?

“At this point they’re only ten feet from the surface, but they still need a couple more minutes decompression time. He knows he’s got to keep her mind off the fish so he grabs her air and hands her his own air. Now why the hell would he do that? What’s the difference, you might ask? Well, it’s so distracting having your air yanked out of your mouth that now all she can think of is breathing. He’s not trying to drown her, but there’s something unnatural about not sucking on your own air. Now she’s tethered to him by panic and he doesn’t have to worry about her swimming off or thrashing about. She’s holding that air with all the strength she’s got.

“As they approach the surface, them makos is so close they bump ‘em when they pass. Ol’ man Packer’s got a big knife strapped to his leg, but the last thing he wants is blood in the water, so he keeps his knife sheathed. He gets the lady’s arms behind her back and positions the two of them so they’re facing in opposite directions. There’s only two sharks and they ain’t working the situation real hard, just hard enough to keep the lady in thorough panic. Packer keeps himself facing the sharks and keeps the lady facing away, hoping she’ll calm down a little.

“He puts his legs stiff-out and shoves these beasts when they pass. Must’ve pissed off one of ‘em because the shark takes a big bite out of his left dive fin.

“’Bout that time I can see ‘em bobbing in the water and I pull the ship alongside. I tossed the ladder over the side then jumped in and helped push that large-bottomed woman up the ladder. She hit the deck and just fell over faint.

“Packer wouldn’t get out of the water until I was up and safe, then he boarded. Know what he said when he got his mask off?”

Leah shook her head.

“He says, ‘I think it’s my turn to cook, better get started, I’m a little on the hungry side.’”

“I doubt his pulse was ever more than 60 beats per minute through the whole thing.”
Leah looked at Stanley in an inquisitive sort of way, not sure whether to believe every word, or call Stanley a damned-good story teller and an even better liar.

Stanley finished and looked at Leah. “You can’t tell whether I’m just givin’ you one, well right there on the wall is that old pair of flippers.” Stanley pointed to the wall opposite the bunk where pictures and memorabilia were nailed to the wall. In the far left corner was nailed one full flipper and a second with the undeniable shape of a bite out of the end.

“Packer said they wasn’t good for much anymore and he needed a new pair anyway, so he just nailed ‘em to the wall and forgot about ‘em.


“Yes,” Leah answered in a small voice.

“Don’t judge the ol’ man too harshly on first impressions. He’s got a heart made out of pure gold, and if you’re ever in a tight fix, he’s the one you want beside you.”

Leah smiled demurely and thanked Stanley for the help and for the story.

“Dinner’s in 15, look forward to seeing you there, ma’am.”

Faithfully submitted,
Teddy Packer

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Wooden Pier

Leah: part 1

I've never felt I needed to tell my life in order. I've chosen to start telling the present. This is my account of recent events.

Thick, humid air carried with it a subtle fragrance of sea, salt, distant flowers, and the ever-present smell of boats. A steady breeze kicked up a salt spray from the bay and dampened her skin, leaving behind its thin, briny covering. Afternoon rains had ended and left the air thick. The sky was a magnificent mix of towering cumulus punctuated with bits of brilliant blue sky.

She walked the wood pier out to ‘Sunray Jubilation’, or just ‘Sunny’ to those of us who sailed her. A converted shrimp boat, her 70 feet would ply the waters slowly, but her construction was rugged and she would do well in heavy seas. She was a good, sturdy ship.

Over her shoulder was heavy dive equipment: twin tanks and regulators, buoyancy compensation vest, and regulators. Behind her Frederick seemed to effortlessly carry the large locker over his shoulder, body slanted in one direction to center the load over his six foot, 3 inch frame. Frederick ran the dive shop and had supplied the dive equipment that was not brought in from Europe; after all, tanks are heavy and ubiquitous, why ship them when they are easily rented in every popular dive spot on the face of the earth.

In the locker was the personal equipment that could not be rented: cameras with underwater housing, both still and movie; a mask that was specially made to fit her face. Off-the-rack masks too uncomfortable to wear for any length of time. She had paid an exorbitant amount of money to have a specially-made mask from Bowstone.

The locker also contained dive watches, a film camera, a stock of batteries, re-chargers, memory cards by the gigabyte, and assorted other necessities for the task at hand.

A second trip back down the pier would be required to grab the duffels of clothes she would need.

“Ms. Sheffield?” the questioning voice came from a tall, slim, weathered man of about mid-forty. He wore a hard-billed, soft cap typical of skippers through the ages.

“Mr. Packer?” Leah queried.

“No ma’am, I’m Stanley, skipper of the boat.”

Of course. His deeply tanned and sun-worn skin spoke of life at sea. Mr. Packer would surely be a softer-appearing man, likely without all the sun. Perhaps soft hands and soft muscles, as befits an older man, an owner of this company.

“I’m sure when Mr. Packer realizes you’ve arrived he’ll be up straight-away to greet you.

“Your cabin is below, just aft of the fo’c’sle. A bit cozy, but I think you’ll find it comfortable and functional.

Frederick lowered the locker to the deck easily, a locker that Leah found difficult to lift, much less toss around.

A sea gull landed on the bow rail, stretched her feathers, delicately tucked them to her sides, and proceeded to gaze toward Leah. Other gulls circled in a noisy cacophony of calls and cackles.

Frederick finished the second trip with the duffels, setting them on deck next to the locker.

“Shall I help get them below ma’am.”

“No, thank you, you’ve been so very kind to bring them this far.”

“Very well ma’am. Enjoy your sail. We’ll see you when you get back.”

Frederick gave an informal salute, a smile, a nod of the head, and then turning, he jaunted back to the dive shop.

“You must be that European photographer,” my voice boomed out from the open bridge above.

Leah looked up. I stood there, hands on the rail, ball cap worn slightly back on my head. Not soft-looking at all, but a hardened veteran of adventuring. Of course, she recognized me now from pictures she had seen. Only in this setting, and viewed from below, she would tell me later, I seemed ever so much bigger than life.

Giving a bit of a scowl I started, “It might get rough out there. Got sharks in the water in this part of the world. You sure you’re up to it?”

My tone was penetrating and questioning.

“I’ve dived the Adriatic, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, The Maldives, the coast of Madagascar, Tahiti, Leyete Gulf, Palau, the Great Barrier Reef, and the North Sea in a full heated suit. I think I can handle Belize.”

I didn’t give her the satisfaction of changing my expression but continued to study her.

“Most days we’ve got two good hours in the morning and two good hours in the afternoon. Outside of high and low tides the current runs so fast we’ll have to send a powerboat after you if you get caught in one. And when the current starts to run, the Makos come in to feed. Just don’t get cocky and think you know these waters.”

“I’m not so arrogant that I would refuse local knowledge of the waters, nor am I so inexperienced that I need a lecture on the basics.”

Her words bit.

“Very well. I trust you’ll be able to get your work done. Truth be known, you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t highly recommended. Where’s your assistant?”

“He’s on a different flight. Coming from Atlanta. Should arrive this evening.”

She paused momentarily then added, “You do have separate accommodations for him, I trust? We’re not bunk mates.”

“Exactly as promised, Ms. Sheffield, exactly as promised.”

Our eyes locked. From the way she described it later, my face had a gruff demeanor which said one thing, but my eyes spoke another story. They had a hint of humor, a touch of warmth, and they held indications of secret knowledge, of stories untold and secrets closely held. I gave her a wink.

“Welcome aboard, Ms Sheffield. Dinner is at 6:00.”

I spun and disappeared from the bridge.

Faithfully submitted,
Teddy Packer

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Second Kiss

Antonia: Part 2

After a warm, lingering kiss, she rested her head upon my shoulder, arms tightly around me. I held her close. I could feel myself becoming aroused, and that was against the will of my logical mind, but apparently precisely the will of the rest of me.

She was forbidden fruit, the wife of a well-known and somewhat disreputable businessman. She had sought me out for a specific chore which would forever change her relationship to her husband. She had sought me out to expose some business interest of her husband's. He would not be happy had he known what she was doing.

Our first correspondences were entirely in the electronic form. Professional at first, but the tone of our email changed over time. There was a great deal of information to exchange in the course of the work at hand and it required nearly daily communication. The technicalities would bore you, so I won't bother with them. Besides, the job is no longer the story. She is the story.

Our exchanges became both business and flirtatious. Then they became less business and more personal, more probing, more flirtatious, more compelling. It's hard for me to know when we crossed the line, but at some point we most assuredly crossed it. We carried on our business, but the passion between us would not be quenched.

I brushed her hair out of her face and leaned down one more time to kiss her. She received my invitation and our lips met, soft and warm and moist. I felt her breath on my cheeck, I felt the rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. She was alive, she was real. At last I had experienced this woman who had so fired my imagination.

We had met once before. I had seen her before in-real-life. But her husband had been there and we pretended not to know each other. Stolen glances and veiled smiles were all that was exchanged. When she left with her entourage, she stole one last glance in my direction. The look of her face was frozen in my mind more indelibly then any photograph could have recorded the moment.

She buried her face in my chest and softly spoke, "Teddy, oh Teddy."

But her words were troubled. Desire and fear mingled together, causing a cavalcade of emotions to flow through her mind. Her words were soft and delicate as she continued to speak my name. I lifted her chin and studied her eyes. They were full and wet.

"It's not over, you know."

"In many ways it may have just begun," I replied.

The double entendre was not lost on her. She held me more tightly, her shape pressing against me, arousing me.

The envelope I gave her was not money. It was more precious than that. It was evidence. Documentation of a crime about to occur. I'm not a law enforcement officer. In many ways I was indifferent to the contents. But I could not be indifferent to her.

I raised my hands slowly to the top button on her sweater and unbuttoned it, revealing another two inches of neckline.

I don't know what she might do with the envelope. She's the client. I had performed my duties and was finished.

I moved slowly down her sweater to the next button and freed it as well.

I suspected the job would have a second phase, but I wasn't sure I wanted to be involved. The potential for the total depravity and ugliness of the human condition to be released was vastly greater. Yet, I was powerless to say no to this woman.

I moved my hands to the next button.

"Teddy, no, we mustn't," she rebuttoned her sweater. "This isn't the time or the place. We've stolen two kisses from eternity, and she may want them back. I'm so sorry Teddy, I wish I could."

Her words fell heavily on my ears. Our eyes searched and probed each other. A tear ran slowly down one cheek.

"Our time will come, it's okay," I reassured her.

I left the envelope on a chair and backed toward the door. She stood in the middle of the room and watched as I left. She was crying.

Faithfully submitted,
Teddy Packer

Monday, August 29, 2005

First Kiss

Antonia: Part 1

I stood in the entranceway of the five-star hotel. I’d been in five-star hotels before, but I had never stayed in one. I couldn’t see spending the money. Sleep is sleep. Once your eyes are closed, does it really matter where you are?

True to form, I wore my blue jeans and black tee. Since this was a formal occasion, I also wore the linen sport coat favored by others who made their daily routine through the sub-tropical Miami heat.

I tossed a tip to the valet. I hated spending money this way, but it was part of the game. A requisite of the trade I had chosen. My nostrils filled with the steamy scent of jasmine combined with the sultry humidity caused by the late afternoon thunderstorm.

She would be there.

Thus far I had avoided her entrapment. Or was it that she had avoided mine? Room 1207, that’s what she had said. 8:00 p.m. sharp. It was 7:58. Past the concierge, past the main desk I walked. The hotel employees were sharp and crisp in their five-star attire. Anywhere else my wardrobe would be out of place, but this was Miami. Different rules blurred the line between formal and casual. I reached out to press the button on the elevator and noticed my hand shook. I puzzled over it for a moment. In the past week I had been shot at, shoved around by both mob-types and law officers alike. Threatened by lawyers, castigated by angry anonymous callers; not once had I felt weak-kneed or frightened. But now my finger shook.

The digital floor-indicator slowly counted its way up to 12. The doors opened and I stepped out into the corridor. Plastic numbers on the wall indicated 1207 to the right. Preprogrammed, my feet delivered me to the proper door. I raised my clenched hand to knock. The hand hesitated in the air, then finally, it fell against the wood and made the sound signifying a request for the occupant to come forward. Time stopped. My mind raced. Perhaps I should have merely slid the envelope under the door. It would have been safer. Now I regretted having knocked. Maybe she hadn’t heard. Maybe the sky was polka-dotted. The door opened.

“Teddy,” she stated when our eyes met.

“I’ve got the…”

“No,” she commanded, “not in the hallway. Come in.”

She pulled me into the room and smoothly closed the door behind me, throwing the security latch in one smooth motion.

She smelled of Chanel. Her black slacks and sweater hugged her form and emphasized her exquisite shape, her hair pulled back loosely in a knot. I drank in her presence, a presence which overwhelmed the room.

“I brought the…” I started again, but she put two fingers softly against my lips, quieting my need to speak.

Silently, our faces slowly moved toward each other. Eyes open, searching the other’s features, reading the expression, reading the desire.

There are two ways a first kiss is delivered. The first, full of passion and desire, is quenched after the bodies have experienced their brief rapture. It is the kiss of a one night affair, of two strangers who will forever be strangers, even after the culminating act.

The second kind of kiss is not as fevered, but rather gazes deeply into the eyes and seeks to search out the secrets of the soul as well as the body. Such was our first kiss…

Faithfully submitted,
Teddy Packer

Wednesday, August 17, 2005



Those heavy, sometimes ornamental, decorative pieces that you place on either side of a stack of books to keep them upright on the shelf.

In the modern world you might pick up a cheap, flimsy bookend that has a flap that tucks under one end of the row of books, using the weight of the books to keep the bookend in place. I’m not talking about these cheap ones.

I’m talking about bookends from a different era. When you would proudly display your treasured hard-bound books on your shelf; about a time when the book was as priceless as the content; when a book would be lovingly removed from the shelf to be read over and over, then carefully replaced back on the shelf to be guarded by faithful bookends until the next reader takes interest in the volume.


I personally know a famous author. If I told you his name you’d recognize it. But the author’s identity is not important here. His collection of books is. After many years of writing he has created several best-sellers and several critically-acclaimed works, but these were not the works which were his personal favorites. Separate from all the successes are several volumes that he has written never to be published. They are sentimental pieces of special significance to the author alone. They look deep into the most precious aspects of life and meander aimlessly through love and passion and the things that stir the soul. It is a special collection. It lays on its side on the shelf. It needed bookends.


Some time earlier the ACME Manufacturing Company, that ubiquitous producer of all goods, had endeavored to fill an order for 10,000 sets of bookends. They would be distributed to a specific large national retailer. There were hundreds of designs available in this order, some stamped, some carved, some cast; but each design had this in common — the bookends came in a matched set. If the left side were the Statue of Liberty, the right side was as well. If the left side were a teak elephant, so was the right side. If the left side were a chubby figurine, the right side would be its mirror-image.

ACME shipped this rather large order on October 15. The order reached the retailer’s distribution center and by the 30th they were on the shelf in all of the chain’s stores, ready for the Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping seasons.

Through the late fall and early winter a predictable number of the bookends were sold. Overall it was a successful retail project. And, as with all retail projects, the time for the bookends to take up valuable retail space came to an end. The retailer gathered up what was left and sold them in bulk to a secondary retailer, one specializing in carrying the remnants of the high-end merchandisers. Here, what was left of the collection met with a certain predictable success and what had been an order of 10,000 now was a collection of no more than 400 or 500 bookend sets.

But even a secondary merchandiser values shelf space and in time, the collection of the remaining 100 or so bookend sets was sold in bulk to a liquidator. Carelessly tossed into a bin at the liquidators, the remaining bookends became chipped, broken and separated. An enterprising individual purchased all that was left and took them to a large-city flea market where the individual kept a sales booth.

By this time what remained was no longer carefully packaged in sets, but were scattered loose. It would be up to the consumer to find the matching bookends. And of course, if a customer thought a particular bookend likeable, at this point in the retail chain there was no need to buy two, they could be sold singly.


Flea markets are a grand hobby for some folks. Often they are attended by folks not so much needing to buy something as much as wanting to seek out a rare value or an unusual find. This particular Sunday, my author-friend and I strolled through the market. We were there to catch up on old times and it provided a relaxed environment for walking and talking.

Up and down the isles we went until we reached a booth where there was a table of miscellaneous bookends. My friend stopped. He was quiet a moment and I could see him studying the items.

He began speaking to no one in particular, as he was inclined to do in his eccentricity.

“Ah, my little friends, I can see some of you were quite expensive when you were first for sale. It looks to me as though you were made with great care and detail, and now look at you? Does no one love you?”

He picked up several and examined them. He came across a brass eagle, its wings spread in majestic form. With a little searching he found its mirror-image other-half. It was shiny and perfect, almost pretty. The first had some noticeable nicks and showed a little tarnish. Holding them up together he questioned me, “If you could only have one, which would you take?”

I looked at pair of bookends and pointed to the one in the more pristine condition, “That one, I guess?”

He answered, “But look, the one you didn’t choose has more character. Its imperfections tell of stories untold, of a more difficult route through life. Its strength and its beauty shine more thoroughly because of its rough and rugged appearance.

He set the perfect one down and tucked the other under his arm. He continued to look through the collection.

“Ah, look at this one,” his eyes glowed with delight.

He picked up an ivory bookend, exotic in its beauty, intricately carved and delicately beautiful; a carving of the goddess Venus. Searching, he found another ivory-carved bookend, a carving of Zeus. Though the two were not the same, they clearly were together as a set. He held the pair up for me to examine.

“You see the differences? This one is so delicate, and yet consider its strength and its beauty. The creator gave a great deal of attention to its detail and purpose.

He continued, “But it clearly doesn’t belong to its mate. See how disinterested he is in her. He has become self-absorbed and has not cared for the delicate beauty that he once claimed. His carving was not done with the same care and does not balance her.”

He set the ivory Zeus back on the table and tucked the ivory Venus under his arm with the eagle.

“I’ll take these two,” he told the vendor.

Naively I stated, “Those two don’t match.”

He smiled that knowing, kind, indulgent smile, the one he reserved for the less learned. Clearly, he knew something I didn’t.


Later that day he arrived home. He carefully unwrapped the bookends and took them to the bookshelf in his most private writing area. There, he stood that special collection of writing he cherished so much and placed the bookends on either side.

“Bookends that were never intended to be together,” He spoke aloud, “But I disagree. From the moment you were created the two of you were intended to come together here, and now; to stand guard over my deepest passion. Disparate symbols of freedom, strength, courage, beauty, sensitivity, charm, wit, adventure, introspection and honor. One without the other is not enough.

“And I, the author, have decreed it so,” he spoke to the bookends, “Here you shall stay together forever, protectors of all that has poured from my heart, all that is truly dear and precious; presiding as sentinels over my heart and my passion. Two unlikely bookends, but perfectly matched.”


Faithfully submitted,
Teddy Packer

Saturday, August 13, 2005

HH3 Rescue Chopper

From Emerson to Ming

Part two. For context read the previous post first.


Emerson Douglass Wright

No one liked him.

Actually, there were those of us who liked him just fine, but within his squadron, where it counted most, he was not liked. Let me explain.

I transitioned in to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing of the Seventh Air Force stationed at Korat, Thailand, in mid-October 1968. I was a kid. I was in the Air Force illegally because I was technically under aged. Everyone around me knew I was young, but everyone around me seemed to have the good sense not to ask. Such were the times.

I had earned a reputation in flight school and in training of being a red-hot pilot. Please understand that pilots don’t use the term ‘red-hot.’ The exact expression is ‘shit-hot,’ but I’m trying to keep language to a minimum here.

But when you enter a combat situation, no one is impressed with what you did in flight training. The attitude was, here’s the real world kid, now we’ll find out if you really have what it takes, or if you end up dead. I struggled a little bit with arrogance and pride in those days, but I had the good sense not to show it. I listened. I learned.

I had actually been given a choice as to which fighter I wanted to train in. I chose the F-105 because it was the fastest aircraft anywhere in the world at low altitude. Sure, others could take its speed claim away when up in the stratosphere, but this aircraft was designed to hug the terrain and deliver a big nuclear weapon on Moscow and then get away. There was only one problem. We weren’t delivering nuclear weapons in a surprise attack. We were dropping conventional ordinance which had to be carefully targeted over a city that was more heavily defended against aerial attack than any city had ever been defended in the history of warfare.

And the Thud was not an aircraft you wanted in a dog fight. It just couldn’t turn and pursue. So, we formed up in groups of four and took our ordinance into the heart of Route Pack 6, Hanoi.

The tour of duty was 100 missions. After a successful 100 missions, you could go home, or at least somewhere other than combat missions over enemy territory. There was a saying among pilots that after 66 missions you should expect to have been shot down twice and picked up once. It didn’t occur to me until sometime later that the formula of that expression leaves a pilot one journey short of home. Presumably augured into the ground or held captive in a bamboo cage somewhere.

Emerson, or just Emers to people who knew him, was about as good-looking as a guy could get. He too was a stellar performer in training and additionally had proven that he had what it takes in combat to deliver his ordnance and get back alive. No one minded flying with him.

It was much later when I really figured out the rub between Emers and the rest of the squadron. Remember, I was just a new guy, I didn’t really agree or disagree with anyone in this regard. I merely tried to figure out who thought what? But the rub was this: Emers had everything required to be a General Officer. A lot of the guys in the group would love to have been on a fast track for high rank in the service. But Emers didn’t want it. He wanted to do his tour and leave the service for a nice comfortable life flying people from Tokyo to San Francisco, or something equally tame.

I was somewhat lucky, but then I wasn’t. I was lucky because I started my tour only two weeks before a moratorium was called on bombing Hanoi. That would have been November 1, 1968. I became legal to be in the service on that day.

The first three days on the flight schedule I had been sent with the squadron to Route Pack 1. On the fourth day it was to Route Pack 6, “going downtown” as they would say. I was the group leader’s wingman since I was the most junior in the squadron. Lead was a Major named Gus Wise. Emers led the other pair with Jake Rathbone as his number 2. I’d go into more detail about the actual mission, but I don’t think I could sustain your interest. Suffice it to say that things happened fast and furious once we got in close to our target. A squadron of F-4 Phantoms flew high cover for us and chased away the MiGs. But the anti-aircraft guns were relentless. A burst of AA fire spread flak through the air and destroyed the hydraulics of Gus’s 105 about 20 miles from target. He had his hands full controlling the aircraft and turned back for Korat. He wouldn’t be able to land the craft, but the further he was from Hanoi when he ditched the aircraft, the better for him. He had to, at the very least, make Thud Ridge.

I formed up with Emers and became a third member of a two-man flight. It was all I could do to keep with the flight lead. He constantly jinked, moved, and jolted through the sky to avoid being an easy target. I had to anticipate his moves. I was so busy inside the aircraft my only hope was to watch flight lead and when he dropped his ordinance, I would drop mine. So much for all that bomb training. I’d have been terrified had I time to think.

Immediately off target we pulled up and made the sharp turn for Thud Ridge and safety. Pedal to the metal, as they say, hell bent for leather, going as fast as we could to make safety. Flak was everywhere. We continued to jink our way through the sky.

A burst immediately in front of the cockpit blinded me. It ripped a large hole in my left wing and fuel was dumping at an alarming rate. The airplane wanted to roll over to the left and it was all I could do to keep it upright. That same burst, I found out later, punctured the fuel tanks in several places of Jake’s ship, but somehow he managed to make it home. We had not reached Thud Ridge.

Emers came over the radio with a voice so calm you could swear he was asking where we kept the peanut butter in the kitchen.

“How you doin’ there, Packer?”

“Kinda got my hands full at the moment, Sir.”

“You’re loosing a little altitude there, any chance you can get the nose up a little,” so calm it could put you to sleep.

“Uh, I’m tryng, I’m afraid it’s getting away from me, Sir.”
“You ever bailed out of an aircraft before?”

“Only in simulation, Sir.”

“Well, I’ve got some great news, Packer. You’re going to have a story to tell the grandchildren. I’m going to need you to get ready for an ejection. You won’t clear the ridge at this rate. See the clearing two clicks ahead to the left?”

“Yes Sir.”

“We’ll try for that.”

Emers was right along side. A sane man would have dashed for home.

“Are you ready? I’m going to count to three then I want you to eject. You got your emergency radio all ready?”

“Yes sir.”

“OK, you’re going to want to keep the earpiece in your ear once you hit the ground. I’ll be in touch. Make sure you’ve got your flare ready to go.”

“Yes sir.”

I don’t believe I’ve ever bragged about not being scared. I was terrified. Emers kept me cool. He was in control of a tough situation.

“One. Two. Three.”

I pulled and left the aircraft. I watched as it plummeted to the ground and exploded. I hadn’t made 66 flights yet.

I hit the clearing dead center and tore away my chute. It would be imperative that I find cover quickly. I went through the survival gear and found the little hand radio. I plugged in the ear piece.

The sound of gunfire erupted. I couldn’t discern the direction. I was a little stunned but knew I needed to keep my mind working and sharp. That’s when I realized that the gunfire was coming FROM Emers and was pulverizing a spot just to the east. His voice came over the radio.

“Packer, I’ll need you to move to the west at this time. Don’t get in a hurry, but now would be a good time to get moving.” Still calm.

Emers would stay on station and protect me until he had only one ounce of fuel more than what was needed to make the refueling tanker. At several intervals he loosed his canons on an enemy I could not see but he could.

We had been the last flight of the squadron and there was no one left to help Emers cover my position. He would do it alone.

I know, I know. You’re getting bored of war stories. But I had to tell you this part so you would understand how I met her.

The Sandys—the gunships—would not get there in time to afford a vertical extraction from one of the big choppers that pulled the hapless and the unlucky out of the jungle.

I made my way into the thick of the nearby jungle, radio in one hand, pistol in another. Tripping over a root, I fell face first onto the jungle floor. My gun went flying but I managed to hold on to the radio.

Dazed and disoriented, I looked around for the pistol. When I looked up, there was a figure standing in front of me wearing an outfit that looked like pajamas. The figure was holding my gun.

This would be the end.

Then the miraculous happened.

In perfect English this very small woman said to me, “If you want to live, Joe, follow me. Quick.”

She kept the gun.

Faithfully submitted,
Teddy Packer

Friday, August 12, 2005

The F-105 Thunderchief, "Thud"

The 60s and War

A long time ago in a far-away place. That’s the way I think of it now. There’s several things to cover here. First is a bit of a history lesson, I want to tell you how things were for baby-boomers in this country in the late 60s. Second, I want to tell you about a lifetime friendship forged. That one might be a little more interesting. Third, I want to tell you about a girl. No, not a girl, a woman, though a very young woman at that. The girl part is probably the most interesting part of the story. I’ll save it for last and make you wade through the rest of this crap first.

Vietnam. I was there. I don’t make a big deal of it. It didn’t ruin my life. But it sure as hell set the tone.

In the mid to late 1960s there was a large percentage of the population just getting ready to enter the work force. Anywhere you went to find a part-time job just to have a little spending money, you were told there were 25 others who had applied for the job ahead of you. You want to go to college? Better have damn good grades because most of them are full. I label this era “the time of fierce competition.” If you were lucky enough to get a job, just one little screw-up and you were gone. There was a line of kids ready and willing to take your place.

I think this single dynamic did more to divide my generation into two distinct groups than anything else. Those two groups would be the fighters and competitors on one hand, and the drop-outs, hippies and druggies on the other.

I obviously was a competitor. But I understood completely the desire to flip all the old folks off and tell them I wasn’t going to play their shitty game any more and just go counter-culture. I never harbored any ill-will to the hippies or the peace movement, though it was clear that they thought I personally was their enemy. I’ve never quite figured that one out.

You want to know about the girl? Later, I’ll get there soon enough. I’ll give you a clue, though. She saved my life. I don’t mean that metaphorically, I mean it quite literally. And yes, we were lovers. But later for that.

Ever since I can remember I wanted to fly. In fact, I wanted to fly jets. I was a little on the lucky side. My second cousin actually operated a crop-dusting service back then and I learned how to fly in a Piper Cub he owned. I didn’t think much of it then, but it gave me an incredible boost a little later on. Maybe I should just tell the story about that Piper Cub right now. Well no, later. That’s not where I’m going with this. That one will have to wait. There’s just too damn many stories to tell.

I was a fierce competitor. I read military history and hatched a romantic notion about war and glory. I’ve gotten over that notion. But at the time I was scared to death I was too young to see action in the war-of-the-day. Foolish thoughts. I couldn’t wait to get out of high school. I took the Graduate Equivalency Exam after my sophomore year. Of course I passed, you didn’t even have to ask. I was told there was little to no chance of getting a pilot’s slot in the Air Force without at least two years of college. I joined ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and took two quarters of credits in each of three successive quarters. I then dropped out of college and joined the Air Force. The recruiter told me I was too young. Come back when I’m 18.

I went to a different recruiter and this time I lied about my age. I pulled every trick in the book to make myself look older. Looking back on it I doubt that the recruiter believed my age but had the good sense not to ask for proof.

Since hard work was already an addiction, I had no trouble at all in basic training. It’s doubtful I would have been taken into flight training but two things worked in my favor. First, I was the perfect height and weight for a fighter jock, that means pilot. And two, I had a lucky audition.

At the end of basic there was debate about who was going to get the fighter slots and who was going to get everything else. I had been a stellar recruit. Just the same, I didn’t have any real advocate in my favor. But begrudgingly I talked my way into basic flight. Here’s where all those hours flying upside-down in that Piper came in handy.

The instructor gave me a cursory look and explained the basics of the taxi and takeoff procedures. Once airborne, I was to execute a few basic maneuvers. Instead I demonstrated a split-S into an Immelman followed by a lazy-eight. The instructor took this as a challenge and proceeded to demonstrate a hammerhead stall, thinking that should shake up this new-comer. Unfortunately he fell out of it prematurely and entered a flat spin. I don’t know if he shook himself up or not. I think he did but didn’t want to admit it. I merely thanked him on the radio and pretended he had presented me with an impromptu test. I recovered the flat spin in two turns and after regaining some altitude and airspeed, I executed the hammerhead to perfection.

On the ground he climbed out of the plane and with a scowl said, “Follow me.”

He headed directly to the C.O.’s office.

“Colonel Miller,” I heard him speak, I standing rigidly beside him scared out of my mind. Had I blown it? Was this to be the way I was to leave the service?

“I have a problem with one of my students.”

“The Colonel never looked up, but rather continued writing and in a calm tone merely said, “Then wash him out.”

My heart sank.

Then my flight instructor continued, “No sir, I don’t think you understand. The problem is that this cadet is better than I am.”

The Colonel stopped writing and looked up. I’ve never heard such silence in my life. I knew if I cracked a smile it was all over. I looked straight ahead and avoided eye contact.

The Colonel spoke, “Is that true, Son.”

“Permission to speak, sir?” I was new at this, I didn’t know I had been asked a direct question from an officer and permission was implicit with that question.

“Go on, Son.”

“With all due respect to the instructor, he is a fine pilot and I am honored to learn from him, sir.”

The colonel smiled. “That’s a great answer, Son. It’s pure bull shit, but it’s a great answer.”

The Colonel thought for a moment then directed one brief sentence to the instructor, “Get him into fighters.”

He looked back at his paperwork and that was all.

Tomorrow, Emerson Douglas Wright, the best friend a man can have. And I’ll get to the girl, trust me.

Faithfully submitted,
Teddy Packer

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Snorkeling Crooked Island

The only way to swim at Pittstown Point, Crooked Island, Bahamas

Frances III

For a chronolgy, read previous posts about Frances first. Or read this one. Suit yourself.


Look, I’m man enough to admit my feelings. People tell me I’ve got a tough exterior. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. But I know as a matter of self-preservation I can’t give my heart away to every gal that turns my head for a moment or two.

I think I learned this lesson in High School. I learned it from a girl named Anne. I had a huge crush on her. So did half the guys in my class. It didn’t work out. That’s when I learned to deal with pain of the heart variety.

And that brings me back around to Frances. I can honestly say I never treated her poorly. That’s right, even when I wouldn’t be her butler and fetch her drinks. I didn’t treat her poorly. Come to think of it, that’s probably why she liked me. She couldn’t order me around. Something inside her insisted on testing every man that came along. To pass the test on the superficial level was to fail the test in the big picture. Is this making any sense?

We spent the next couple of days at sea. They were wonderful days, full of intimate conversation, melancholy remembrances, speculation about the meaning of all things. We talked politics, we talked religion, we talked sex, we talked family. We talked about everything and rarely agreed. And it didn’t seem to matter. We laughed at our differences. Our hearts had connected in a way that don’t often connect between human beings.

Well, I’m sounding all sentimental and that’s not my intent. I’d rather describe the days around Crooked island, swimming the reefs naked, laying out in the sun, drinking rum at Pittstown Point. Making love day and night.

We eventually made it around the entire island, but then only had time to make the sail back to Georgetown. The conversation that last day is the one I remember most clearly.

“It’s coming to an end, you know.”
“It doesn’t have to.”
“What, you’re going to quit your job and we’ll move in together, have two kids and live happily ever after?”
“Yeh, sure, something like that.”
She paused and looked out across the starboard bow at the glitter of the sun off the water.
“There’s things you don’t know about me.”
“You’ve said that before.”
“So tell me, Packer, where do you think I work?”
“Consider this, Frances. I met you in Alexandria, you were a representative for an electronics contractor, but you couldn’t talk very convincingly about your job.”
“Oh, I couldn’t? I never heard that one before. I think I was quite convincing.”
“Which is as much as a verification for my theory.”
She grinned, “Keep going, Packer.”
“Something about what you know and how you carry yourself, where you live and who you pretend to be. I put you with the NSA. Maybe an analyst, more likely a runner.”
“A runner?”
“Yeh, not exactly an agent, but someone who gets around, knows things, gets other people to talk.”
Her gaze broke mine and she looked around the boat, as though she were making sure we were alone.
“You’re good, Packer. I’ll give you that. I knew you were no fool, but even at that I may have underestimated your powers of deductive reasoning.”
“But you’re not telling me that I’m right or that I’m wrong.”
She smiled, “Of course not. But I don’t have to, do I?”
I merely shook my head.
“Packer, I’m going to be gone for a month. When I get back, we’ll talk.”
She was silent. I was silent. My hope was that we would talk about domestic tranquility. That we would talk about true love and what true lovers would do to escape the madness of the world and fall into each other for eternity.

The trip to the runway was bittersweet. She refused long good-byes and quickly prepared the Beech Baron for takeoff. I loaded baggage and checked fuel. She rechecked the fuel anyway. I expected nothing less. In the cockpit, engines running, ready to taxi, she looked my way one last time. I’m certain she winked before she powered up the engine revolutions and took the runway.

That was 17 years ago. I’m still waiting for that talk. To this day I have not given up on her return. I have spent a great deal of time trying to track her down, trying to determine if she lived or died. Nothing. I never had a good feeling about it.

A man can tell when he has made a connection. Frances still haunts my thoughts. She didn’t just dump me and disappear.

The final chapter on her has not been written.

Faithfully submitted,
Teddy Packer

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Frances II

Note: these last two posts are a chronology. It's best to read the last post before you read this one. But that's up to you. I try not to tell folks what to do.


In the morning we would set sail and casually make our way east by north east, round the tip of Long Island, Bahamas, then turn south through deep water and make our way to Crooked Island and Pittstown Point. But that would be in the morning.

Look, I already said this blog isn’t for the kiddies. If you’re offended by straight talk, go read someone else’s site. I’m going to tell you what happened that evening and that night. It’s not like you can’t guess. But it’s more than just the obvious. Here’s how I remember it:

“Packer, what do want out of life?”

I looked straight ahead and thought for a few moments.

She continued, “When you dial out all the noise and you start thinking about how you’d like to spend the rest of your days, what is it you dream about?”

“I’ll be honest, there’s been a lot of days where my biggest dream was just to make it to the next.”

“It comes with your life, your occupation, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does.”

“But I know you, Packer. You’re a survivor. You’ll die an old man. I can see that in you.”

I looked at her. I gazed into her eyes. She looked back without blinking.

“I suppose you’re right. I have a fierce will to live.”

“So I’ll ask it again, Packer, what do you want out of life?”

“What do YOU want out of life?”

“Nice try, Packer. Don’t turn it around on me. Just answer the question. If I think you’re genuine, I’ll answer it too.”

“Well, I’d like peace. I mean I’d like peace in my life. No turmoil. I’d like to have a faithful woman who doesn’t judge me for my flaws.”

“Packer? You have flaws?”

She threw her head back and laughed. It was an endearing laugh, not a mocking one. I couldn’t help but smile.

“Yeh, I’ve got flaws. And I think I’d like kids. Yeh, kids. A girl and a boy. Not in that order. My son would look out for his sister. Protect her.”

“Your son would be like you? Ever on a mission to protect the weak?”

“You think that’s my mission?”

“Oh Jesus, Packer, you’ve got the biggest Christ complex I’ve ever encountered. Just let there be a hint of injustice somewhere and you’re ready to take up arms, to move mountains, to take on entire countries to protect the little guy.”

I thought, then spoke, “No I don’t.”

She laughed again. “Ok you don’t. What else do you want?”

“Well, that pretty well covers the important stuff. Domestic tranquility, a faithful woman, loving children. Rich wouldn’t be bad.”

“No, rich wouldn’t be bad,” she agreed.

“How about you, Frances, what do you want?”

She looked out toward the setting sun, orange clouds brilliantly lit by the late evening light. Her look was far away, maybe a little troubled.

“I can’t ever have what I want, Packer.”

She reached into a clothing locker and took one of my long-sleeve cotton shirts, slipping into it, “It’s cooling of just a bit.”

“Oh come on, you got me to confess to wanting a plain and simple life. You can’t back out now.”

“Oh, I’m not backing out. I can tell you what I want. But I also know I can never have it. It’s a feeling, Packer, like a certain knowledge that what I want and what I need can never cross paths with what I will get.”

“That’s bull shit.”

“Packer, there’s things about me you don’t know.”

“Cut the mystery crap, what do I need to know that I don’t already?”

“Nothing, you don’t need to know anything. But I’ve made choices in my life. I’ve done things. They determine the future. All I’m saying is that I’m resigned to live for today because there may not be a tomorrow.”

Our conversation grew silent. She looked far away. I studied her face. She was not happy. She was not sad. The spell over her broke and she looked at me directly.

“Packer, I’m here tonight. I’m with you. Neither one of us can guarantee tomorrow. Personally, I’m in favor of living for right now.”

Frances gently took my face in her hands and slowly moved her lips toward mine. Her eyes closing, I could feel her warm breath. Our lips met and I could feel myself falling into a deep, deep peace, a peace that washed my soul, a peace that covered me from head to toe.

“Come,” she spoke, leading me below to the berth which was made in the main salon. She slid the hatch to the outside closed, not so much for privacy, but to keep in the afternoon’s lingering warmth. The sun slid below the horizon and the salon was illuminated with soft, yellow light.

She sat on the side of the berth and undid my belt. Sliding the zipper down, she pulled my shorts to the floor. Stepping out of them, I stood naked before her.

She stood up and I unbuttoned the shirt, slipping my hands inside and feeling the softness of her sides, her back, her breasts. She cooed softly, enjoying the touch.
I removed the shirt and tossed it aside. Gently I pulled her bikini briefs down and to the floor where she obediently stepped out of them.

I don’t care how many lovers you have in life, you always remember the first time with someone. And Frances was not just someone. She was a powerful spirit and a commanding presence. Her complete surrender to me was an energizing sensation that filled my manhood with desire and satisfaction.

Reclining, we made love. It was passionate, torrid, fevered, soft, smooth, gliding, brisk, invigorating, close, personal, intimate. Did I mention that it was also repeated several times through the night?

I could go on with details, Frances wouldn’t mind in the least. Embarrassment was not something that ever concerned her. But I think you get the point. We made love in the fore castle, in the main salon, on the teak top-side, in the cockpit, There was no place we did not couple.

Frances surprised me with her tender, delicate passion. I hadn’t expected the intensity. But there was a problem. I was hooked. Something that occasionally touches a man, a feeling of ownership and obligation, something mystical and powerful, well, that something touched me that night. Quite frankly, that’s why I’m telling you about Frances now, out of order in the chronology of my life. It was a pivotal point.

But it was not to be. I’ll try to explain tomorrow.

Faithfully submitted,
Teddy Packer