Monster Behind The Masks

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Chapter 16


Carpool duty time!

As the kids piled out of my SUV, I tuned into KPFA radio and was hit with the news of another school shooting in America, an all too common occurrence brought on by a culture and economy of violence that sustains the violence.

With a sick pang in the pit of my stomach, I watched as the giggling happy-go-lucky boys scrambled into the high-school building, disappearing behind the heavy industrialized doors. They were slap-happy during the last weeks of school, ready for fun in the summer sun.

I sat there for at least ten minutes, immobilized with a sense of sensitivity. Mindfulness.

On auto-pilot, I decided to try out the new “Get It Now” App I had downloaded. Nothing like hiring someone to run my errands. I tapped in my wishlist: School notebooks, check. Grocery items, check. A bottle of Montoya Cabernet, check.

That such app-obsessed technology craze is part of what’s driving the oil-i-garchy linked to our forever wars remained unchecked. How we’ve yet to stop squeezing out Earths vast oil supplies to fuel all the gadgets we are convinced we need to make life easier—lingered on an unfinished “to-do” list of humanity.

I drove home and awaited the courier to come while trying to get some work done in my home office. I couldn’t concentrate, looking every half hour for an update on the heart-wrenching shooting thousands of miles away. I prayed my own kid stays safe even in this peaceful community—and that irresponsible politicians and business leaders will finally make the policy changes necessary to stop the insanity.

A voice in my mind repeated something I overheard at a recent party in Discovery Bay. I remembered the comment stuck out in the sunny attitude of the moment. We were on boats—water-skiing, tubing and floating on California’s beautiful stretch of Delta. Music was playing, palm trees waving, boat grills were fired up with sizzling steaks and chicken mingling in the air with the scent of Coppertone.

The topic seemed to exist within every conversation, glance, plan, and gathering. School shootings. The words as common as the air, blending in with the beauty around us, like water. During the laughter, sunshine, floaties, and fun, a parent had said, “It won’t stop until guns and war are no longer in a central position of our government and political economy.”

It was no use—work was not going to get done. I grabbed a water bottle and strapped on my running shoes, then headed out to hit the trails of the East San Francisco Bay Hills. My gorgeous neighborhood— lucky me. At a good pace, I ran in nature past the views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel Island. The fresh cool breeze slapped my face, the wind blowing through my hair.

Later, too wired to sleep, I read while burning spiced incense. The meditative fragrance of sandalwood brought an inner calm. The sound of the rain merged with winds and wind chimes. A cat meowed in the distance. My eyes struggled to stay open as I nestled into a lavender scented pillow, pulling the soft throw over my shoulders.

Sleep finally came and with it a reoccurring dream:

The chair moved back and forth as I held my tiny infant close to my heart, rocking him to sleep. The soothing lyrics of Rock-a-Bye-Baby engulfed me. Through the open window, peaceful sounds of birds were followed by booming fireworks. A group of children whistled and clapped. And then my baby was running with the laughing children. How did he grow so fast? The booming increased. The traumatized birds disappeared, and my cat freaked out scratching my leg until a vein burst into streams of blood. The exploding fireworks turned to bombs and the world went dark.

“Mom! Mom! Are you okay?”

I awoke drowsily. Fragmented images floated through my head. Is my baby okay?


I turned and saw my baby. Wow, from short-legged toddler to fix -feet tall overnight. And our nation is still raging and dropping bombs.

Tyler’s goofy teenaged energy propelled him to bounce on the back-end of my bed.

“What are you doing up so late?” I asked.

“You’re screaming woke me.” Tyler was frowning.


“You musta had a bad dream.”

Shaking my head, I pondered my dream. Nothing made sense. Scattered pictures. Yet, somehow everything did make sense. Subtle hues of our nation’s built-in culture of violence haunted me in my dreams.

I looked at the clock—1 a.m. “Tyler, you need to go back to sleep, it’s a school night. Come here and give me a hug. Thank you for checking in on me, sweetie.”

Tyler hugged me a bit tight, my ribs feeling like they’d snap. “Just wanted to see if you’re okay,” he said, stifling a yawn. “Goodnight.”

“Actually, good morning. See you in six hours.” I watched Tyler move toward his room and blew a kiss. “Love you!”

“Love you as well.” My boy’s voice was that of a young man, and my heart felt like it was following him out the room. The vulnerability I’ve felt since he was born snuck out of my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.

I snuggled into my pillow. Falling back to sleep, I trained my thoughts on our recent family camping trip at Lake Tahoe. I wanted my dreams to be images of the wildflowers, lakes, the greenery along the hiking trails, the quietude of kayaking and other beautiful things we encountered.

The minute I turned my cell phone on in the morning, it pinged. A message from Anna appeared. “I’m doing it again! Taking in distraught people.”

Oh no, what’s she up to now? My dear sophisticated, multicultural friend Anna from Paris, always thinking of others before herself.

I speed-dialed Anna. She picked up on the first ring:

“So, you’re taking in more stray cats, hey?... where did Ava go, seems no place safe…wow! how nice, you two haven’t even used the cabin yet…Is Jules there? sure come over we’ll talk in person…. Okay, bye”

I sipped more coffee, then took a hot shower, letting the heat run over my neck and shoulders. While rolling my head for added stretch, I realized both Ava and Julie are running from rogue CIA or FBI agents, fearing for their lives.

With a towel wrapped around my head, I vacuumed and polished, nearly knocking over my Google Home Mini. “OK Google, play Nora Jones.”

The relaxing beats and sultry smooth voice flowed through my house as I dressed in jeans and an oversized blouse, did a two-minute application of makeup and dried my hair.

I sat at my laptop trying to work, focused on the community improvement grant proposal for the “Sustainable World” contract gig I took on.

The doorbell broke my concentration. Certain it was Anna, I was all too happy to take a break. “Come in, girlfriend!”

Anna stepped into my living room dressed casual-chic in a white sundress, straw boater hat, and flat strappy sandals. As always, she complimented her style with a classic beautiful smile.

“Well, I’d never know you’ve been through such stress. How’s the home-shelter going? Those women couldn’t get a lovelier loft in the Sausalito Hills.” I pulled my blender off the counter, filled with the thick, cold pureed raw fruit I prepared before she arrived. “Want a smoothie?”

Anna lifted the glass as if she was inspecting the color of the drink. “Looks like plain orange juice.” Then she took a healthy sip.

“It’s an orange-ginger smoothie,” I answered. “Infused with immune strengthening secrets.”

“Mmm…taste great, thanks! The home-shelter will need to go out of business soon, or else I’ll go mad.” Anna’s delayed response was announced while still smiling. “At least Ava had left before the children came for their art class.”

“Where’s Julie? You said she was at your house now. I figured she’d be with you—”

“No, no, no. I’m overwhelmed and need some personal space. She was asleep when I left—hasn’t slept for days in her apartment. She’s too spooked about her bird being murdered and brother threatened by the feds. She babbled on about a rumored sting op across America.”

“Accusing innocents of terror plots,” I added. “We both know it’s no babble, Anna.” I thought of the innocent eighteen-year-old boy in a small town outside of Boston arrested on “terrorism charges” for merely posting a self-created rap song on Facebook. So much for freedom of speech. And then there’s Julie’s brother.

We moved into my living room taking our smoothies and the bagels I had toasted. I placed a small plate of brined salmon, cream cheese and capers on the table. “I have more fresh coffee if you’d prefer caffeine, I’ve had enough already.”

“No thanks, I’ve had two cups this morning and it made me jittery.” Anna’s eyes seemed to be admiring the view from my house.

We sat quietly for a moment, appreciating the clear sky highlighting the fiery-orange of the Golden Gate Bridge and the huge expanse of murky-green San Francisco Bay.

I turned to Anna and said, “It’s so kind of you to help both Ava and Julie. I’ve got the impression you reach out to Ava because you lost…” I stopped, wondering if I’d be pouring salt in her wounds.

“My own daughters. Yes, that’s the biggest reason I can feel her hurt even though she helped sabotage my art business. She’s trying to survive child abuse. She’s running, frightened and has been all her life—running from the evil driven into her own once-loving father.”

“And Julie too—”

“No, Julie never hurt me. Oh, but…sorry to have cut you off. Yes, I feel Julie’s pain. She too is running from hidden political malice that threatened the lives of her beloved pet and innocent brother. Her world has been crushed, ironically by the same war economy her dad’s livelihood came from.”

A song popped into my head and escaped my lips. “Imagine all the people living life in peace…”

“World peace will only be attained without the global money in politics,” Anna declared.

We sipped our fresh-fruit smoothies, enjoyed bites of lox while looking out at the white sailboats that seemed to magically appear out of the light fog rolling over the windblown water.

I continued with Anna’s mutual compassion: “And Brandon Garth. That’s when I first connected to you—I saw you could see through the media circus to the innocence of that boy.”

At this Anna sat straight up. For a second, I thought I’d said something wrong.

“Yes! The unjust justice system wanted me to toss the precious kid into prison, take the millions and run all rich and happy. But I felt his pain even though his car tragically struck my daughter. My husband thought I was nuts, blamed me for both daughters’ deaths and left me.”

I nodded, both our eyes gleamed with tears. Slowly—a bit hesitantly, I added, “I think I understand. The pain for your girls was transferred to Brandon. I feel a love for my child so deeply it hurts. I sense any pain, any hurt, he experiences.”

Anna simply nodded, turning her eyes toward a framed photo of Tyler and me when he was three-months-old. A turquoise border emphasized his blue-green eyes. The word “SON” emblazoned the label on the top. My heart skipped a beat.

I dropped a few capers onto Anna’s plate to compliment the salmon. “You know, when I hear of school shootings, I feel as much for the alleged child-perpetrators as I do the kids shot. I think, what dark cultural forces are causing these once innocent children to shoot children?”

Anna shook her head with a look of disgust, “Well I wouldn’t go that far. If it was your kid shot at school, you wouldn’t feel that way—”

“Come on Anna, yes I would! The same deplorable forces chasing Ava and Julie’s brother are linked to the negative influence causing those kids to lose it! For Christ’s sake, the CIA and other ‘intelligence’ agencies are sponsoring terrorism and we go on as a society—”

“You don’t need to explain…I realize they use violent and illegal means to achieve political aims. I lost my own father to this! Yet I don’t think you’d pardon any kid for shooting up your own child’s school.”

Anna walked over to my living room window, glancing out at the captivating view. Her eyes scanned the vast open space as if to search for unanswerable questions—like, why are humans so fallible?

I love how open and kindhearted she is but a bit annoyed with her. Then it hit me…She lost her own children. Does she feel a déjà vu with forgiving the boy whose car fatally struck her daughter? Is she feeling guilty for what is her moral virtue?

Recalling my scattered dream last night, I saw the connection to what I was trying in vain to say to Anna—my kid and others inundated all their lives with nonstop unwarranted wars and deceptive obsession with ’going after bad guys’ since before they were born. A huge imposition to their social-emotional well-being.

But Anna’s children never had the chance to find their life position while wading through such political impositions. Anna doesn’t have the chance to worry about her girls getting exploited by military powers, like what’s happening to Ava. Or simply the chance to be concerned with the lack of nuance of “superhero” movies portraying violence as a virtue.

But she has Jared…Sweet, beautiful Jared. I inquired, “How’s Jared doing? Is he healing well from his scary ski trauma?”

“Yes! Thanks for asking. Kids heal so quickly physically and emotionally! Jared is doing so well, he’s bragging to his friends about surviving an avalanche and saving a lady’s life. We are all counting our blessings!” Anna’s skin seemed to glow with happiness and relief.

“Fabulous to hear! So…you mentioned Ava is staying at your unused new ski cabin in Tahoe…”

“Oh…yeah, Pierre drove her up this morning. His teaching assistant Paula followed behind to stay there with her for comfort and support. I don’t know how long we’ll let her stay, but we needed everyone safe—especially our loving Jared.”

That we were trying to keep her ‘free and safe’ from our own military might lingered in the corner of my mind. “Why do you think she showed up at your doorstep rather than at a close friend’s place?”

“She arrived beaten up by the bastard that calls himself her father. She thinks he wants her dead to silence her.”

“To silence her for speaking up about the secret power at the root of our nation’s violence we are talking about now,” I blurted out.

Anna at once seemed shocked and recharged. She said, “You know, that’s what drew me to build our friendship, to begin with, Caryssa. I could see the almost clairvoyant connection you have with your boy and how you’d help me see through legal bias to Brandon’s humanity. And something else—”

“And our shared ability to see through the lies within global power.” I finished. “We are not mushrooms in the dark enabling those powers to feed us bullshit.”

Anna chuckled, placing her smoothie on the coffee table. “We strive for truths.”

“Anna, I love you for your honesty and the human compassion you show the world. But be careful. You can’t let yourself be bled dry.”

“I was bled dry as a young girl during the Vietnam War, Caryssa. At age eleven, I heard my uncle say my dad was killed due to CIA covert ops. I ran through the streets of Paris crying, seeking a purpose to keep living…”

At that moment Anna’s cell phone rang. Her face turned white when she answered it. “Oh my God, Jules, don’t do anything rash. Sorry I left. I’ll be right there!”

Anna turned with tears rolling down her cheeks. “I have to go, Julie said she’s having suicidal thoughts.”

The happy hour parties on Friday night for years at our home had been stalled with life’s crazy busy. My little family has been having its private happy daily, but we needed to have a summer gathering tonight.

I decided to connect with a circle of friends we haven’t seen a while—the old playdate group.

“Do they know Tyler is away camping?” George called from the backyard. He lifted a spade and stopped digging in the soil while harvesting potatoes.

I glanced out the open bedroom window. The sunset cast a mystic, rather strange light and shadow over the San Francisco Bay. A light fog rolled over the Golden Gate Bridge. The surreal beauty from my backyard reminds me to live in the moment.

“Yes, we even joked about our teenagers having no desire to hang out with a bunch of beyond middle-aged parents fussing over their grades and futures.”

My hinged window caught the wind like a sail, blowing it shut in my face. Arrrggg! I opened it back up, announcing to George, “Forget about setting up the fire pit, too windy—we’ll burn the house down.”

He looked up from getting his hands dirty in the garden, something we both love to do, and asked, “So who’s coming?” I wondered if it was dread I saw in his eyes. Although he’s a social animal, George would rather hang with his old Cal pot-smoking crowd than be pulled into chatty Mom’s trying to change the world for our kid’s sake.

“The only ones able to come are Bryan and Charlotte Garrity. The rest are either on summer vacation or have other commitments.”

This seemed to get George’s attention, “Oh…that sounds fun. I figured Bryan and his family would have whisked off to Copenhagen or some expensive city in Switzerland by now with the multi-millions they inherited.”

“Nope, they still live in their modest small home near Eucalyptus Park, where we went after our boys played ball together.” It struck me Tyler was only five then, maybe eight by the end of little-league baseball. An entire decade has slipped by and our kids are young adults now. I love who my kid is becoming, such a purpose behind all the pain. At the same time, I’m frightened he’s growing faster than our bank account.

Still talking through the bedroom window, George asked, “So what did they do with the twenty-five million Bryan inherited from his dad?” He was referring to the trust fund Clarence Garrity, a former U.S. Senator, finally handed to Bryan after twenty years, long after disowning his only son at age eighteen for not following in his shady political footsteps.

“I told you, they invested a huge portion to charities, ones with a positive impact on our own nation like Americans Helping Americans since half our populace is in poverty. They didn’t want to live like Bryan’s parents: egotistical rich asses that never gave back to society.” I said this while realizing the window was shaking on its rusted hinge, so I pulled it shut.

That rusted hinge was a subtle reminder of other home improvement projects needing attention, including the peeling paint around our house exterior that confronted me lately.

The scents of sage, citrus blossoms, and pink jasmine wafted into my room with the gush of wind, lingering in the air as I tidied up for our guests. I lit scented candles, put decorative towels in the bathrooms, vacuumed and polished.

In the kitchen, I pulled the goat cheese and rosemary pita bread out of the oven, then stuck toothpicks into the smoked salmon bites. George came in with baskets full of green beans, potatoes, and lettuce from the garden. “Don’t go overboard with hors-d’oeuvres. I’m cooking chicken on the barbeque.”

I was grateful it’s not windy in the front yard where our grill is. “Don’t lecture me! Of course, I’ll have a few appetizers for our guest—”

“They won’t be hungry enough to eat my entrée. Don’t insult the chef!” George, forever the culinary control freak.

“It’s not like we’ll eat the minute they get here, chill out! I have two light hors-d’oeuvres I’m proud of making myself, don’t insult the assistant cook!” Eighteen years of marriage is a beautiful thing until we bicker over nothing.

“Only two people are coming, not twenty like we used to have for happy hours. We’ll have enough food to feed the world—”

Blah, blah, blah! Two simple appetizers to go with the wine—don’t worry, your yummy meal won’t go to waste.” I kissed George on the check, and he turned a loving gaze my way.

“Nice outfit by the way,” he complimented.

I had on a blue and white striped one-piece shorts ensemble with cut-out shoulders. My blonde hair was piled on top of my head, a few strands spilling out around my face. “Thank you, I feel like the late fifty-something trying to look twenty.”

George’s smile was more of a smirk, “Works for me.”

A decade didn’t seem to age Bryan or Charlotte if anything they both looked younger. “’Wow, like a rich and famous Hollywood couple that never ages!” I laughed.

Charlotte’s eyebrows raised, her mouth forming a frown, “Neither of us have resorted to Botox or plastic surgery after Bryan got his family windfall of money bags if that’s what you mean. Just good healthy living!”

“Oh, believe me, I’m all into daily exercise, fresh air, sleep and natural beauty to stay young!” I responded. From previous conversations with Charlotte, I knew that talking money was never taboo with them. If anything they loved joking about Bryan’s rich little poor boy days.

We sat in my living room, enjoying the ambiance of candles, music, and wine. The usual panoramic view was encased in heavy fog, yet still looked magical in that quintessential San Francisco way. An otherworldly low fog with burning clouds above it—casting off a bright yellow mellowness blended with the sinister gray blanket.

The two men were deep into a conversation in the kitchen, standing by the food and booze like moths to a flame. I often wonder why people hang in my messiest, least favorite room after I work like a crazy lady making my house so cozy for guests.

“It’s much warmer out than you’d think with the fog and wind,” Charlotte announced, “Looks like we dressed alike for the occasion.”

She had on a colorful skirt and matching bohemian-chic style blouse with ruffled edging, the gypsy Berkeley look. Her hair clip had worked itself loose and dark hair fell in waves around her forehead. Hair that once matched the color of Bryan’s, his now salt and pepper.

“I had a grand plan to have us sitting out in my backyard among the flowers, fire pit, view and fresh breeze but that didn’t work out. So nice for us to get together after bumping into each other so much around town over the years. You look fab, Charlotte.”

“Thanks, I lost fifteen pounds since our baseball in the park days with our boys, without even trying. I think I put less stress on myself.” Charlotte’s skin seemed to glow with contentment.

“So, the old saying ‘money can’t buy you happiness’ is a lie?” I joked.

Charlotte looked surprised for a second, then smiled and said, “I’d like to say the money we got from Bryans family trust has nothing to do with it, but gotta admit it helps ease the worry of paying for the kid’s college tuition.”

I nodded, all too familiar with the concern. “I’m impressed with you, still living in your modest home, giving to charities and living a simple life of beauty—”

“Oh, we are living well enough, mostly in travels and learning multiple languages. So far, we’ve traveled to seven different countries and the twins are learning a fourth language. We just got back from Costa Rica and didn’t want to leave!” Charlotte exclaimed.

George walked in carrying the tray of hors-d’oeuvres, Bryan following behind. Bryan chimed in, “The boys loved the troops of monkeys swinging from the trees, the sloths and snakes, zip-lining through the rainforest and surfing—”

“Costa Rica is so lucky the monkeys are their only troops!’ I exclaimed.

Charlotte seemed energized, jumping in, “So peaceful. We surfed and snorkeled every day! The biodiversity, sunny beaches, warm climate. We’d move there in a flash.”

“You wanna move to Costa Rica, hon? It can be arranged.” Bryan scrunched his face up, his dimples digging deeply into his cheeks, giving him that charming indulgence when he laughed. The dimples humbled him, made him human. “But what about our jobs?”

“Oh, come on Bry! We can both do our work in Costa Rica. In fact, my profession of Ecology is the biggest there. Costa Rica is the most protected natural environment there is—no mutilated frogs there like here!”

I studied Bryan’s face. Still, that tall handsome man I met ten years ago at a ballpark while watching our boys play. Same sparkling blue eyes and crooked Irish grin. Only his hair seemed to change with the silvery locks adding to his distinction. He remained reserved. Quiet. Seemingly waiting for his wife to continue. Which she did:

“Costa Rica is so politically stable and prosperous within its education, health care, and safety net. It abolished its army seventy years ago and has enjoyed peace ever since!”

“We could learn from that example; regardless how much bigger we are. They saved from spending on ‘defense’ and instead invested in education, healthcare and this beautiful thing called life and happiness.” I uttered.

George piped in, “Bryan doesn’t have to worry about our nations fucked-up financial priorities. This here Harvard drop out is doing quite well since his sugar daddy stepped in…”

The rest of the sentence evaporated in a slow recognition of surprise, as George good-heartedly pushed on Bryan’s arm. The wide-eyed raised eyebrows of our guests sent an uncomfortable silence through the room.

I attempted to smooth over my husband’s rough-edged comment, “Um…George, I think Bryan is proud of his Cal Poly education and career and—”

“It’s not that.” Bryan held up his arms as if in surrender. “I’m okay with the Harvard thing and sugar daddy comment. It’s just that…well, my dad died of Parkinson’s last month. He held on and we tried to mend our ways but…”

My hand went to my mouth, “Oh my God we are so sorry Bryan.”

He nodded, and we remained quiet for a moment. I sensed Bryan didn’t want to talk about it now.

Charlotte quickly wrapped an arm around each of us and said calmly,” No harm in the comment George, I mean, the sugar daddy thing is true, and we even joke about it! We may not need to worry about our boys’ financial futures. Yet it’s the cultural hegemony we concern ourselves with for our kids. The ruling class manipulating our culture, imposing their worldview on our children. That’s what makes me think about moving out of the country.”

We all nodded, taking sips of our drinks and pondering this.

As if to change the topic yet not, Charlotte asked, “So how was your family trip to D.C.?”

“It was wonderful thanks. Lots of fabulous food and wine, seeing the sights and sounds, kayaking the Potomac. So nice to be able to bring Tyler and influence him with our own agenda, rather than the harmful politicized version the schools send the kids on.”

“Oh, I hear ya, with the glorification of our history of war and violence. That’s what I mean by cultural hegemony.”

“Seriously, what is politics anyhow, but a manipulation of symbols? A glorification of globalism and nationalism? Rather than take photos of flags, war monuments, and oppressive graves, we focused on the wonderful art museums, multi-cultural exhibits, gardens, architecture, good food and the positive innovations our nation has achieved.”

“So, you didn’t see the history and space museums?”

“Oh, we saw all the museums, The Holocaust Museum, Smithsonian American History, Air and Space—all the main attractions. I merely meant we didn’t highlight or waste photos on the scheming political fluff such as engraved clichés like “freedom is not free.” Although of course, you can’t miss this type of preachy slogan while there.”

Charlotte nodded rather than spoke. “What was Tyler’s favorite?” she asked.

“The Natural History Museum, in particular, the huge bear and other wild animals. I personally loved the Butterfly Exhibit. I found the American History Museum a rather amusing twist of good and bad and couldn’t help see a pattern etched directly into our growing war economy.” I mused.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been there, explain your thoughts.” Charlotte seemed a little wary. Yet, from our previous conversations I know she shared my vision.

“An unhealthy cultural mold of superhero hoopla, onto Hollywood glitz and war worship. We start out innocent enough with childhood toys and TV series: the Batmobile, Romper Room, Mickey Mouse, Sesame Street and the infamous Barbie Doll darling of our childhood.” I started to say….

“Heck yeah! I remember Barbie really gets around the museum. She’s rather popular,” laughed Charlotte.

“I think she may even have been on display working the factory making plastics or something,” I added.

“Or she’s sprinkled among the exhibits making metals and burning fats for the ‘war effort,’ joked Charlotte. “Can’t people connect the dots to mere money. Getting us out of economic depression?”

“But the almighty dollar is critical!” I laughed. “We move onto the Wright Brothers and their incredible invention of the airplane. All good until they make an unethical business decision with the war department and then the exhibit goes from virtuous design to “The airplane goes to war!” Weeeee!’”

We could hear George and Bryan laughing outside at the barbeque, and George called to us, “Dinner is ready!”

“Smells great, we’re coming!” responded Charlotte.

As we moved towards the bistro area for dinner, I joked, “Oh, and the last night in D.C. we stayed at the ritzy Courtyard by Marriott near Reagan National airport and were sleeping with the enemy!”

Sleeping with the enemy?” Charlotte gave me a quizzical look.

“There was a picture of the Pentagon on the wall of our hotel room, creepy!” I laughed. “Nothing like shoving a not-so-subtle reminder of our nation’s war obsession in our faces the last night of our trip!”

The evening was full of laughter and good cheer. No more talk about world politics or the federal government’s incompetence. After dinner Bryan got us dancing for hours with the city lights and bay sparkling outside the big windows. George worked the music with an eclectic mix of rock, jazz and traditional ballads from all over the globe.

As Charlotte and Bryan were leaving my cell phone pinged and I received a text from Anna, who was in Hawaii with her husband and grandson. I read the text:

Just letting u know, Jules is OK. She’s not suicidal, just stressed. More good news-her brother is off the hook!

A sense of relief floated with me as I got ready for bed. Julie’s red-hot temper and stress got away from her, but she’ll survive. Julie, a never married, childless woman holding tightly to her dad’s legacy of building ships for all that liberty and freedom. Now caught in the web of a culture of politics, technology, and the corrupt legal system.

I wondered if through her brother’s ordeal she is appreciating a different perspective of life: Parenthood.

I wondered also how her brother’s case got dropped and what it took to get off the hook.

I had my suspicion.

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