Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mountain life has its ups and downs

     Yesterday I was tasked with going out in the front yard and retrieving two door mats, a decorative flag, three landscape lights and some sundry items of unknown but apparent substantial value that had been blown away during a recent Smoky Mountain windstorm.  Now, for those of you that do not live on the side of a mountain or enjoyed a vacation in this part of Eden, my front yard has a slight grade to it.  The best way to give you perspective is that my driveway drops FIVE stories from the garage to the road and the road drops another 500 feet to the street, and from there you just go downhill until you get to town. (UPDATE: I recently downloaded an altimeter app for my Android phone -- the driveway actually drops 110 feet, so that is more like ten stories, and from my gate to my mailbox on the county road it drops another 530 feet.)
    I had been procrastinating the trip into the yard, but the wifey (now ex-wife) said I must, so I sucked it up and jumped off the retaining wall into the virgin forest (Yes, virgin forest, believe me, nobody in their right mind would go F'ing around on that slope) and began to work my way through the overgrown briers, leaves and dead-fall to excavate and gather my belongings.  
     For the most part, the (wife-valued) litter had landed high up the slope and settled on or near the foundation pad.  Unfortunately, two significant and expensive parts of the landscape lights had slid a bit farther down the hill.  After several laughable attempts, I managed to toss the more easily retrieved bounty up onto the lower decking, and reluctantly started the descent further into the "yard."
     I knew that there was no turning back.  No, literally; there's no turning back!  The slope is so steep that once you step away from grading of the house pad, there is no way to climb back up (okay, you Mt. Everest climbers, maybe you might with the expert help of a couple of Tibetan Sherpa).  I carefully sidled my way down through underbrush to the resting places of my wayward lighting and stashed the precious parts under my arm to preserve the use of my hands as essential braking apparatus against the pull of gravity.  With very little steerable variance, my route was straight down as I crept along the uncertain and untrod path through the dense woods in a general tangent towards the intersection of the road and my driveway.
     It was no big deal, I made it just fine.  A few cuts and scraps, a couple of slip-and-falls, and a fully sweat stained dress shirt, and okay, maybe I was wearing the preposterously wrong kind of shoes, but I managed to scale the mountain, ford the roadside ravine, and climb back up to that celebrated iconic symbol of Western civilization: pavement! 
     Did I mention my driveway drops FIVE (TEN) STORIES!  Well, from down there, it rises those same five ten stories.  No elevator, no stairs, no rappelling ropes, just a concrete ramp that was never designed for pedestrians, let alone a middle-aged, out-of-shape writer. 
   Yesterday I joked on social media about never doing that chore ever again and just heading down to the Walmart to buy new stuff to replace anything that happened to fall from the sanctity and protection of my mountain manse.  Yes, that post was funny, and yes, the thorn cuts on my hands, arms, and legs have finally stopped bleeding, and yes, I really have no plans to EVER venture into that front yard again.  But the real laugh is that in all of the diversity of my education, I have never had the opportunity to study the musculature of the human body, and me being an aging, New Jersey, flat-lander whose virile early years are no more than a well-faded memory; the consequences of attempting to scale my mountain, a challenge that even in my youth would have been ill-advised, has had a few consequences.  
     I have aches where I never knew I had muscles; heck, I hurt in places I didn't even know were part of my body!
     Wah, wah, wah!  Big crybaby right?  

     Remember I live on a mountainside.  The main floor of my house is a full 12' story (18 steps) above the ground level where my dogs need to pee several times a day.  My office where I'm writing this is upstairs; another 12' story above the main floor.  Think about it, I do more stair climbing in one day than a chubby soon-to-be-June bride exercising the whole month of May.  And each trip up or down these staircases hurts me in new and ever surprising ways.  
    Oh, in case you wondered, I am skipping the gym this week, instead I'm going to open a bottle of wine and relax in the soothing warmth of my Jacuzzi bathtub.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Not me, I got a flu shot.

   It’s been a fun couple of weeks up here in the mountains.  I took some time last week to run into town for some Marsala wine and went to Ingle’s (our better grocery store).  First off, I did NOT slip and fall and hire a lawyer; I don’t live in Ft. Lauderdale where apparently that is a legally mandated requirement of grocery shopping.  I did; however, notice that every cashier and bagger in the store was coughing, sneezing, blowing their nose or moaning about aches and pains.  Isn’t flu season fun?!?
   I’m no fool; early on I saw the good Doctor Weaver and got my dose of chicken egg and dead influenza virus.  I brazenly stood there in the fog of aerated germs knowing that I had grown the necessary antibodies to fend off even the most aggressive pathogens.  I exchanged courteous greetings with the sickly store personnel and accepted my germ-filled receipt and bagged goods without fear.  Little did I know that while my emboldened immune system was in epic battle with the legions of infectious spores, two or three highly trained “black ops” soldiers would circle around the flanks and attack my unguarded fertile mucus glands.
   Unlike my raven-haired Philly friend (actually, she from South Jersey, but she has a big-girl apartment in the city now), I wasn’t completely incapacitated by the flu.  I did get sick with a fever, aches and pains, and general malaise, but I tried desperately to stay in the running while I summoned some of my frontline forces back to fight the rogue saboteurs.  
   When the viral sorties finally subsided, I found my work queue overly saturated with time sensitive work.  I was confident that with a predicted winter storm heading into the mountains, that my days would be undisturbed by recreative trips to the gym or (God forbid) Walmart, and I would soon deplete my onerous backlog.  But what I had not counted on was the snowstorm causing numerous power fluctuations that were apparently so uncomfortable that my cellular modem/router could not sustain itself and committed equipicide. 
   I have spent the last five days fighting with Verizon (who refuses to believe that any mere mortal non-phone-guy could possible know what the hell he is talking about) and relying on email communications, uploading and downloading, and web searches on my phone.  Oh yeah, yesterday, four days into my worst technological nightmare, Verizon finally told me that my data plan included their “mobile hotspot” service on my phone.  Thanks for the timely news!
   So in case you have wondered why this post and a few other normally timely tasks of mine are just a mite tardy, you can blame that demonic entity that once exorcised from my body, decided to infect and possess my computer equipment.
   Speaking of demons, has anyone noticed that Mercedes Benz is using Sympathy for the Devil as a theme song and incorporating hellish fire in their logo?  What’s up with that?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Whatever happened to Sabrina Aisenberg?

     This is the first of the promised pieces of my fiction.  It is a little longer than a typical blog post, but read on, and please, please, please leave me some feedback.

     In 1997, as many of you know, my ex-wife and I were living in the St. Petersburg area of Florida.  Across the bay in a suburb of Tampa, a four-month-old baby girl disappeared from her crib in the middle of the night.  Based on the anecdotal evidence of a garage door left uncharacteristically open, a family dog that never barked, and the nursery being the only room intruded, the police quickly began to target little Sabrina’s parents, Marlene and Steve Aisenberg as the probable cause of the infant’s disappearance.
     Over the next several years, transcripts of unintelligible wiretaps, police press conferences offering potential scenarios and wild speculative suspicions in the press, were weighed against verifiable facts, unidentified fingerprints, and detectives caught lying on warrant affidavits.  Charges were eventually levied and then thrown out by the courts.  The Aisenbergs have never wavered in their protests of innocence and many in law enforcement believe they got away with an unspeakable crime.
     With no answer to the whereabouts of Sabrina Aisenberg, popular opinion is as divided as the accused and the accusers.  There are as many people convinced of Marlene and Steve’s guilt as there are certain that the botched investigation and “malicious prosecution” is the only reason Sabrina is still missing.
     As a writer, I was intrigued with the juxtaposition of opinion and contradictory evidence.  The following story is my attempt to create an unresolved conflict of truths and beliefs.  Fauna has evolved from a typical third person story, to a monologue, to a one act play, and finally to the interview form as it exists today.  I don’t think any writing is ever finished, but I think this is ready for you to read.   
      Please leave a comment, and share it with friends (there are links for Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and email at the end of the post).



     The following is the story of Warren Thomas Smith as it was told to me by the convicted murderer himself just months before his death.  This is essentially the same tale he used as his defense during his trial.  The purpose of recounting this saga is simple:  I promised Mr. Smith that I would.  The promise was in exchange for his granting me the interviews from which this account has been derived.
     I admit that I entered into this agreement suffering the same biases and prejudices that many of my readers are sure to have.  It should also be understood that Warren Smith’s genuine sincerity and indisputable consistency, coupled with events that coincided with his suicide on April 19, 2000, has given me reason to question my initial judgment.  With the exception of this foreword and the attached postscript which details certain news accounts that corresponded with his death, Mr. Smith’s depiction of the events leading up to this tragedy is presented without editorial comment or opinion.
     The interviews represented here were conducted over three consecutive Mondays in November 1999.  I generally write (as I hope many of you already know) stories of life’s anti-heroes, damned by innate evil or uncontrollable circumstances.  I was tediously researching a (still unpublished) plot line in which my protagonist murders his one true love.  In the course of my endeavors to write credible characters, I interviewed and studied eighteen convicted killers.  Each of the fifteen men and three women had killed someone for whom they professed a deep and undying love.  None of the slayings were spontaneous incidences of rage or passion, rather each was apparently carefully planned and executed with total deference to the professed affection between murderer and victim.
     It was with this purpose that I traveled to Raiford, Florida and through the gates of the Union Correctional Facility (formally Florida State Prison).  This was the involuntary home of Warren Thomas Smith, incarcerated and serving a ten to twenty-five year sentence for the abduction and second degree murder of Fauna Adamson.  The State contends that the murder (or disappearance) occurred in precisely the same location in Florida’s Ocala National Forest where Smith had discovered the infant Fauna, abandoned just hours after her birth.  His thirteen year obsession with the flaxen haired nymph and his inexplicable acts, clearly qualified this case for my study.
     Smith had acquiesced to my interview for the reason already stated, and was relaxed and unencumbered by manacles or shackles during each of the sessions.  His stature and demeanor were much the same as we all remember from the televised coverage of his trial.  The nine-and-a-half years of confinement had somewhat grayed his hair and added more than twenty pounds to his stringy physique.  He had just acknowledged his fifty-third birthday (he laughed when I asked if it was a celebration) with an unauthorized tattoo of a broken heart crossed with Fauna’s name.  He was obviously troubled by the juxtaposition of his devotion to the girl and his participation in her tragic fate.
     The following account is edited modestly.  Some omissions are intended to delete repetitions and reiterations that resulted from the various breaks in our conversations.  I employed a minimal amount of editorial correction of syntax and grammar, and only where I was concerned that his poor use of English might detract from the significance of his account.  I was more diligent in omitting profanity as it added little depth of meaning and I desire the widest possible audience for this story.  There are times that Mr. Smith’s chronicle appears to be nothing more than a ludicrous, self-serving, logorrheic fantasy, but it is my considered opinion that Warren Thomas Smith believed every word of his tale.   

Union Correctional Institution 
- Raiford, Florida
November 1999

     Okay, if you want to know what [...] happened to Fauna, I’ll try and tell you, then maybe you can tell me why I’m in this [...] jail.
     I found her back in ‘70.  It was kind of fluky that I was where I was.  Right place, right time, I guess.  Maybe it was the wrong [...] place, I don’t know.  But it was all because of my job. 
     I had had a tough week.  Back then I was pounding nails for some […] want-to-be contractor.  He was the kind of […] hole that would stand over you and tell you exactly what to do, and then bust your nuts in front of God and everyone for doing it wrong.  He’d cuss and call me names for doing a job exactly the way he told me to.  He was a good one for screaming in your face.  I didn’t like him much.
     Friday came and I thought about going out and getting wasted.  I drank a lot back then, but instead I just went home.  I was feeling strange.  Kind of antsy, if you know what I mean, like I needed something.  I don’t how to describe it.  This is what those detectives said was supposed to be my pedophilia.  It wasn’t anything like that.  I wasn’t horny or lonely or nothing.  What I think it was, was a prem... What's that word, yeah, premonition, like ESP or something.  I knew something was going to happen, like an itchy palm before you find money.
     Anyway, I cashed my check at the grocery store, bought a can of Dinty Moore, and went home.  I didn’t do much that night.  I ate the stew while watching some movie on TV, and went to bed.  Back then I didn’t go to sleep much without having a couple of drinks.  But that night I fell asleep stone-cold sober.  It was kind of weird, I slept all night, but I remember when I woke up, I was dog-tired.  It felt like I’d been up all night. 
     I know this might sound like a load of bull […], especially after everything that happened, but something was playing on my mind, you know, inside my head, and I think it was Fauna.  I think she was trying to let me know....  Like she was telling me to come get her.  Ever get a feeling like that?
     It was Saturday morning; I was up early, dog-tired, and I had nothing to do. Thought about it and decided to take a drive.  You know, get out and cool down; mellow out and take it easy.  I needed to forget about work for a while.  I thought about calling up some of my friends, but figured I was better off going solo, besides I didn’t know what I was going to do and I didn’t want to be obligated to no one.  
     I stopped at the Circle K down on the corner for one of those big cups of coffee to clear my head and started out east on 40.  I don’t know if you’ve ever driven that road, but its mostly just two lanes that winds its way out through the Ocala National Forest.  Real pretty.  Old Florida, if you know what I mean.  Not much out there; a couple of Podunk little towns and a few biker bars.  It’s a good drive if you ain’t trying to get somewhere fast. 
     There was a lot of traffic that morning; mostly bikes and trucks pulling boats.  That’s why I decided to get off the highway and take the side roads.
     I was pretty near into Lake County when I turned south on 19 and then back west on some little access road.  It wound up towards that campground that’s out there.  I guess it’s still out there.  I crossed the old Railroad Grade Road and turned north on one of those Forest Service roads they keep for the firefighters, and then east again on some county road.  I don’t think it’s got a name.  My coffee was long gone and my bladder was ready to burst.  I needed to find someplace to stop.  
     This part of the woods is really empty; nobody out there.  There’s a few lots cleared like they was going to build something, and every once in a while you’ll see an old trailer or a little cabin, but no people.  I guess there must be some somewhere, but there’s no place to shop; no business to work; not much of nothing except hunting and fishing.
     I seen a short gravel driveway that ended at a gate ‘bout twenty feet off the pavement.  I pulled in it so I wasn’t blocking the road, climbed over the gate, and stood behind a bush to take a pee.  Sounds kind of strange doesn’t it, way out in the middle of nowhere and I had to hide behind a bush to take a piss.  Funny how things stick in your mind.
     You ever been out in that part of the forest?  It’s pretty cool out there.  Nothing around but Nature.  I didn’t know whose property I was on or if I could get in trouble for trespassing or something.  Out there you got to be careful, you know, you could get shot.  But I...  I just...  I don’t know.  I felt right there, you know, inside; I don’t know what, happy maybe?  Not scared.  I don’t know.  It was a weird feeling.
     I decided to walk around a bit.  Just wanted to see more of that place.  I was thinking, it was pretty cold and wet that morning, so I wasn’t too scared that I’d run into a snake or something.  I wasn’t dressed for walking out in the woods; only had on a T-shirt and cutoff jeans. 
     It’s pretty out there.  I mean, real back country Florida.  Huge oak trees with that Spanish moss stuff hanging all down, big pines and cabbage palms, kudzu growing all over everything.  It was pretty in a Florida kind of way; not like the beaches or in the city; old Florida, the way it used to be...  And quiet.  It’s real quiet out there.
     I was trying not to make noise, just listening, in case I could sneak up on a deer or a coon or something, and I was trying to keep a good track, you know, my bearings, so I wouldn’t get lost.  You know how your senses get kind of sharp when you’re out in the woods?  I’ll tell you, I could feel something out there.  I was being drawn by something; something was guiding me, leading me to where she was.  I can’t say what it was, but something was telling me where to go.
     I don’t know.  I was just walking and looking and listening, and then something made me stop.  I stopped right next to a bush.   Don’t know what it was, there wasn’t a noise or a smell or nothing.  I just kind of sensed, or felt, like ESP, you know, that I was supposed to be there.  I could feel it there.  There was something in that bush; something I needed to find.
     It wasn’t really a bush; it was briers.  The thickest […] I ever saw.  Dense, you know, like a solid bunch of thorns.  There was no way through it, no break, no thin spot, no nothing.  The vines were all tangled and man, was it full of thorns.  There was no way in....  I know this don’t make sense, but I wanted...  I knew I had to get in there.  I knew she was in there.  Don’t ask me how.
     Anyway, I picked this spot that looked like it was a little thinner, you know, less thorns, and I plowed right in.  Jees, even now, thinking back, that was so weird...  And stupid.  How my life would have been different if I hadn’t have gone in there.
     The cops were wrong.  She was in there.  I’m not making any of this up.  Right in the mess of that.  Right in the middle of all those briers.
     I swore before, and I’m swearing now.  You make sure that whoever reads that […] knows, I ain’t lying.  This is the whole [...] truth and nothing but the [...] truth.
     She was in there; that’s where I found her.  Inside those briers and you get this right.  Inside there, there was a hole in the ground.  Not deep, sort of like a bowl or something, I don’t know, maybe like a bed or some animal’s nest; right in the middle of those thorns.  And right there, in that hole was that little baby.  She was naked, just lying there in a pile of green leaves, not crying or nothing.   What?  Huh?  Yeah, they were green, like someone has just picked them off a tree.  Made a little bed for her.
     Anyway, I was really freaked by it.  I thought about trying to forget the whole thing and book it out of there.  I was thinking I didn’t need no trouble; I didn’t need to deal with someone’s lost baby, but then she looked up at me and smiled.  Man, I can’t tell you what that did to me.  And not the way those […] holes tried to make it seem, I ain’t no pervert.
     Yeah, right, I got a record: sex offender.  I got three years for humping a girl who was only fifteen.  I did my time for screwing that little slut.  It don’t have nothing to do with this.  Besides, a nineteen year old boy doing his underage girlfriend ain’t the same as molesting a little baby or doing something to his daughter.  I ain’t a pervert, and them […] holes knew that.
     Yeah, that’s part of the story too; getting her out of there.  I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy, but I got her out of there without her even getting a scratch.  I got pretty tore up though; I was a bloody mess; cuts all over my chest and arms.  I had took my T-shirt off and wrapped it around her.  Folded it up like a diaper you know, then I wrapped my arms around her as tight as I could and pushed my way back through the way I come.  It didn’t matter that I was getting cut up; I knew I had to protect that little baby.
     Once we were out of there, I ran like hell all the way back to my truck.
     It took me about twenty minutes to find a damn 7-Eleven and call the law.
     Man...  That’s when all [...] broke loose.
     Some State people came and took little Fauna and the cops put me in cuffs.  There was all kinds of cops there; local Sheriff's deputies, game wardens, even some Feds, ‘cause it was in the National Forest.  
     I took all of them back to where I found her.  I showed them the briers and that hole with the leaves.  I showed them everything, told them how I got there, everything...  But they said I was lying.  They were saying she was in too good a shape, that she wasn’t cold enough, that no one could have put her into those briers or got her out without her being scratched up.  They said that there was no shit or piss or anything in them leaves that showed she had been in there.  They said there was no evidence at all except for what I was saying, and that didn’t make no sense to them.  I thought I was screwed.
     Yeah, well that’s the way it happened.  Think about it, why would I lie?  I was the one who called the cops.  Why would I finger myself?  I could of just left that baby in the woods and nobody would’ve known.  No, they got it wrong; I wasn’t lying.  They still got it wrong.  Besides, why would I be lying now?  After all that’s happened, I got nothing to gain.  It ain’t like they’re going to change their minds.  No, I ain’t lying.  I swear to you, this is the [...] truth!  But they won’t believe me. 
     They finally let me go around midnight, pending the outcome of their [...] investigation.  I’m sorry, I’ll watch my language.  I guess you can’t print that, huh? 
     See, they didn’t have no evidence to say I was lying or that I was telling the truth, so they had to let me go.  Our legal system at work, ha!  They still ain’t got no evidence, but here I sit.
     Anyway, I asked if I could see the kid.  They said she wasn’t none of my business, that the State of Florida was taking care of her.  I know it sounds strange, but when they said she wasn’t my business, I got really pissed.  I...  She...  She belonged to me!  I found her!  She ain’t belonging to no one else!  She was my baby!
     I was stewed about that all weekend.  All I could think about was my baby.  I don't know how, but I knew she was supposed to be with me.  Monday came, man; I didn’t even call in to work.  Screw it!  My new baby was more important than work.   I just started calling every damn state phone number I could find.  I had to figure out where she was, so, you know...   Listen, I wanted to see her, nothing more.  I still don’t know why everyone still tries to make more out of this.  In my head, she was my kid, you know.  What would you do?
     I don’t remember who it was that slipped up and told me, but I found out that Fauna was being kept by Mrs. Mary Adamson.  I didn’t know Mrs. A back then, but it didn’t take me long to figure out who she was and where she lived.  It wasn’t but about thirty miles away.  I went straight out there.
     Mrs. A was calling her Baby Jane Doe when I got there.  What a [...] name.  Sounded like something they’d put on a dead body in a morgue, not on a live baby.
     Mrs. Adamson was all right.  She’s a nice lady.  Widowed.  I never told her how sorry I was for what happened.  She loved Fauna too.  If you see her, would you tell her I’m sorry?  And tell her I’d like to see her; tell her to come visit if she can.  I really liked her.
      Anyway, I told her who I was, that I was the one that found the baby and all, and she let me right in.  I got to see little Fauna right away.  Mrs. A could tell I didn’t like it when she called her Baby Jane.  I told her right out why.  I told her that I found her out in them woods and until they could find her real momma or whatever, I thought she should be called Fauna.  I told her, you know, like in school, you know, Flora and Fauna.  I always liked Earth Science.
Mrs. Adamson liked that name too.  Said it fit her.  That’s how she got to be Fauna.
     Anyway there was a lot [...] going down over the next couple of weeks.  Half the time the cops acted like they believed me and were looking for whoever left her in the woods, and half the time they where trying to figure out whose kid I had taken and if I had did anything to her.  Funny, at the time, I thought my [...] nightmare couldn’t get any worse.  Look at me now.  At least they ain’t going to kill me.
     Mrs. A said that even the doctors from DCF were acting suspicious.  They kept checking Fauna to see why was she so healthy and if she had been violated, and how if she had really been out in them woods, why she didn’t even have a rash?
     It is pretty weird you know, you claim she was out there naked as a jay-bird without even a diaper, yet there were no signs of hypo...,  whatever that word is where you get really cold on the inside.   Besides, how was someone going to get her out there without leaving some kind of trail or footprints or a cigarette butt or something?  Hell, I still can’t figure it out, if it were people or something, how’d they get her into those briers without cutting her up real bad?  Not to mention, why.  Why leave her out there?  I guess that’s why they never really believed me. 
     Mrs. Adamson let me see Fauna almost every day I could.
     I had to get a new job; I kind of never made it back to the other one.  He was an […] hole anyway.  I started driving a truck for a laundry company.  You know, like for nursing homes and restaurants.  It paid pretty good and I had plenty time at night and on weekends to go over to Mrs. A’s and play with Fauna.  After a while, the law started to leave me alone some, stopped asking me questions and hassling me.  Everything was going pretty good.  I thought all that [...] was finally passed me.
     Fauna was doing great too.  She got big, real fast, like I mean one day she’s pissing in a diaper and the next she’s walking around and talking and […].  You know I never had a kid of my own, except Fauna.  You got any kids?  Kids grow up fast.  It’s like those first ten years are a blur.  Man...!  You know, learning her to ride a bike...  Learning her to talk...  Birthday parties...  Damn, it all happened so fast.  She just got big, I mean, I guess I was getting old too, but man...  She just got big so fast.  I wish I remembered more.
     I had found her in February, so me and Mrs. Adamson decided to make her birthday February 2nd.  You know, Groundhog’s Day?  Came out of a hole...?  I don’t know, maybe it’s only funny to me and Mrs. A.  Anyway when she was...  I don’t know, she was pretty young, Mrs. A said we had to have her christened.  We just told them her birthday was February 2nd and that’s what they wrote down.  She got christened and that’s when she legally became Fauna Adamson.  They had to use Adamson, not Smith, I guess because I wasn’t her real daddy.  Not that Mrs. A...  It don’t matter.
     You know what?  That was when I learned how to spell Fauna.  I thought it was like the deer, you know F - A - W - N - A, but it was really F - A - U - N - A.  I laughed about it that night, you know, I named her and the whole time I didn’t even know how to spell her [...] name.  I guess I remember some stuff from school pretty good, but I wasn’t no good at spelling.  Since I quit school, I don’t do much reading and I never did write much, you know you don’t need to do much reading and writing when you’re a delivery man; bed sheets, tablecloths, towels; invoices are already made out.  I just count [...] and get them to sign for it.  Anyway, that don’t matter, she was legally Fauna Adamson.
     Things were going along pretty good up until about the time she turned ten.  I don’t remember the day exactly, but it was sometime in February, not long after her birthday.  Mrs. A said that DCF had found some people who wanted to adopt her.  It didn’t sink in too good right away.  Mrs. A said she couldn’t keep her anymore; they wouldn’t let her.  She said Fauna was going to have to move up in the panhandle with some Christian minister’s family.  She said she wasn’t legally mine or hers, and this new family had rights.  Right, they got rights?  What about me?  What about Mrs. A?  She said that some state psychiatrist said I should stop coming by to visit.  He said we needed to get Fauna used to me not being around so that she wouldn’t get upset when she moved.  Some […], huh?  We’d been together for ten years, and some shrink, never been around her and me at all, thinks it would be better if we just stopped seeing each other, like that wouldn’t screw both of us up.  Mrs. A said we didn’t have no choice; we didn’t have no rights.
     Man, I hadn’t had a drink since...  Well, since before I found Fauna.  […], I made up for it that night though.  I got really messed up.  I must have been drunk out of my mind when I decided to take her.  It was pretty stupid I guess, but I’m still sure it was the right thing to do.  They didn’t have no right to take away my little girl.  I did have rights and so did Fauna.
     I took her right out her bedroom window.  It was on the second floor, so we had to use a ladder.  I’d seen a show on TV about, what was his name, Limburger?  Anyway, that give me the idea how to do it.  
     All I had was $482.00 and an old Ford pickup that was running pretty good.  Fauna said she didn’t care; she wanted to be with me.  She said I was her daddy.  We took off and made it all the way to the northwest corner of Texas before that old truck broke down.  That’s where we stayed; we never even tried to hide.  I got a job on a ranch, under my own name, and we just kind of settled in. 
     No, why would they ask?  She was my daughter.  Nobody ever asked.  No, I didn’t say nothing about Adamson.  We just used Smith.  I had ID and they took my word about Fauna.
     The Johnsons, the people that owned the ranch, liked us.  They helped out a lot with Fauna.  She got to live with them in their big house, she had her own room, and she went to school and everything.  Nobody really said nothing about her, even at the school.  I told them her records was lost.
     I stayed out in the bunk house with the other hands, but we were still just like a family.
     You should have seen her back then, she was really happy.  She loved all them animals on the ranch.  It was like she had some kind of power with them.  The horses, the cows, all them animals, even the chickens, they’d just come up to her, you know.  They were never scared of her, like they knew she wouldn’t never hurt them, like she understood them.  It was pretty cool.
     You know, one time I remember, we were out walking around in the pasture and she went right up to a jackrabbit.  She just bent over and petted it.  That damn jackrabbit, you won’t believe this, he went down in his hole and brought out a whole bunch of baby rabbits.  I ain’t […] you, it brought out its own babies for Fauna to pet.  She just set down on the ground and they all come right up to her.  She did [...] like that all the time.
     We should have stayed there forever, you know, in Texas.  It was a good life for both of us.  Man, it sure would have been better...  Better than this.  I guess anything would have been better than this.
    Homesick for Florida?  [...] no!  It was Fauna’s idea.  We had been in Texas for about three years.  Fauna had grown up.  She was a teenager.  She said she wanted to go back to Florida.  I wasn’t going to argue with her.  Well, I did for a while, but she usually got her way, you know, she kind of had me wrapped around her little finger.  Besides it wasn’t no big deal.  I didn’t think the law was going to give us any crap.  I figured they’d stopped looking for us seeing as how they never found us.
     Fauna had grown into a real lady, you know, developed and all.  She had this great, long, straight, blond hair, and a perfect face, I mean perfect, like really perfect features and she had a perfect figure too.  She looked better than any of them women on TV or in the movies.  I know that some people are going to think that I mean this in some bad way, but man, she was hot.  I mean, I know what hot means, but she was like my daughter.  She was pretty and all, but I never thought of her as anything but my daughter, I swear.
     We came back because she wanted us to.  I wanted to stay there, but she kept talking about coming back.  She said that she wanted to see where I had found her; where she came from.  She wanted to see what her woods looked like.  Let’s face it; there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have done for Fauna.  So we come back to Florida.
     No, I wasn’t too worried; I figured nobody was looking for us very hard after all that time. 
     So, I bought us a truck, we packed up everything we had, said good-bye and left.  We came across I-10 to 75, turned south to Lake City.  There’s an old efficiency motel there, you know the kind with a kitchen in each room.  I paid three weeks in advance.  It was pretty cheap you know, about a hundred and a half per week for a room with a kitchen and maid service and everything.  They even give you dishes and pots and silverware.  Paid for three weeks, I guess I lost money on that, huh?
     Anyway, we got in pretty late in the day. We didn’t do anything except buy some groceries and eat.  We watched some show on TV and went to sleep.
     The next day, I guess that had to be Thursday, April 12th; we got up early.  We took turns getting showered and dressed.  I always gave her privacy.  I decided that we could eat breakfast on the road even though we didn’t have much money left.  I figured McDonald’s wouldn’t be too expensive.
     We ate and got out on the highway.  Not far, you know, just a few miles.  I drove down to the 40 turn off and turned east.  It was like I had just driven it yesterday, I knew exactly where I was going without thinking about it.  I don’t think that I hesitated even once.  I drove right out there to that spot; that same driveway; that same gate.  We hopped the fence and walked into the woods.  It was exactly the same as it was back in ’70.  Nothing had changed except it was foggy that morning.  The fog didn’t matter ‘cause I knew where we were and exactly where we were going.
     It didn’t take too long to get there, I told her, “It was here, honey.  Somewhere right around here.”
     I knew what to look for, but she seemed to know too.  I was looking one way and she walked off in the other.
     I know this sounds strange, and I’m going to swear to you again that this is the truth, but there wasn’t a sound or a smell or anything.  I just suddenly knew.  I knew Fauna had found it; the brier patch.  It was still there.  Looking exactly as it had all those years ago.  How she found it, I don’t know.  It was like she had some instinct, you know, or ESP.  She knew what to look for and right where to go.  I felt it too.  I know you won’t believe this, but I felt her feel it.
     I turned around and Fauna was about thirty yards from me.  She had taken off all of her clothes.  She was naked.  She was... beautiful.  I’m not saying she was sexy or I was turned on or anything, you know, she was really, really beautiful, but she was my daughter and all grown up.  It was like I was seeing her for the first time.  I never saw her bare-ass naked before, not since she was a little baby.  Now she was all grown up and developed like a woman.  She was... beautiful!  Like no woman I’d ever seen before.
     I swear, it might have been the sun coming through the fog, but she seemed to glow, like there was a spotlight on her or something.  I’ll never forget how she looked.  She was so beautiful.  That was the last time I ever seen her.
     She was standing right where I had been back in 1970.  She looked up at me and waved and then she walked right into those [...] briers. 
   I thought, “Christ, she got no clothes on and them thorns..., them [...] thorns!”
     I ran as hard as I could.  It couldn’t have taken more than a couple of seconds to get there.  The briers ripped my shirt right off my back.  I ran right through them.  I was back in that hole, that dip, or nest, or whatever [...] it is, and she wasn’t there...  She wasn’t anywhere.  She was gone...
     I screamed.  I ran back through the thorns.  I kept screaming and yelling.  She didn’t answer.  I ran and I looked and I called and I ran.  I couldn’t find her nowhere.  I swear, she was there and then she wasn’t.  I swear.  She walked in them briers and just disappeared.
     I didn’t do anything to her, I swear.  I ain’t lying.  Nothing happened to her except she was gone.  The blood on her clothes was mine from the thorns, I don't give a [...] what the cops say.  I picked them up, you know, her clothes, and got my blood all over them; my blood!  That’s why they were bloody.  I didn’t hurt her.  She didn’t scratch me like they said.   Nobody will believe me ‘cause it’s too...  I don’t know...  I don’t know what to say anymore.  She’s out there, somewhere in them woods, I know she’s out there, she’s got to be out there and she’s got to be alive ‘cause I didn’t kill her.  I swear I never hurt her.  I couldn’t have hurt her...  I couldn’t have...
     Someday...  Someday I’ll prove it.  The truth will come out.  It has to.  You’ll see.  They’re going to let me out of here one day and as soon as they do, I’ll prove it to you.  To you and all of your [...] readers.  I’ll prove it to that [...] sheriff and that [...] Judge; to everyone.  I didn’t murder no one.  Fauna’s out there.  She’s still alive, she has to be, and I’ll find her again.


     The following two news clips came to my attention while I was still compiling my notes and editing this interview.  I make no assertion that, with the exception of the embedded references, these items have any relevance to the veracity of Warren Thomas Smith’s account. 

GAINESVILLE, FL:  Authorities continue their investigation into the human remains unearthed by hunters last weekend in the Ocala National Forest.  The Alachua County Medical examiner, Dr. Everet Deiter has determined that they are the bones of a human female in her early teens.  He says that preliminary test show that they were probably deposited in the woods between ten and sixteen years ago.  There has been no confirmation from anyone connected to this case that these are the bones of Fauna Adamson who disappeared in that area in 1983.
In a related story, Warren Thomas Smith, the man convicted in the disappearance and murder of Fauna Adamson, was found dead in his cell at the State Prison in Raiford today.  Officials say that he apparently hung himself shortly after learning that the Parole Board had denied his request for early release.  His remains will be interned at the prisoner’s cemetery on the penitentiary grounds tomorrow morning.  He has no known relatives.

SEATTLE: Washington State authorities have widened their search for the parents of a female child found abandoned in the Olympic National Forest near Seattle.  The baby, found in remarkably good condition, was discovered in a thorn covered ravine in a remote area of the forest accessible only by foot. When discovered, the baby was naked without a diaper or blanket.  “It was as if she had been left to die,” said one health official.
The heroic rescue is being credited to a troop of Boy Scouts on a weekend wilderness hike.  Park Rangers have been unable to determine the trail used by whoever left the baby in the woods.  There are no suspects or persons of interest.  US Forest Department officials are requesting information on any suspicious activity in or near the Olympic National Forest last weekend.
The child was taken to Children’s Hospital for a medical evaluation. When she is released, she will be placed in the care of the Department of Social and Health Services.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A resolution we can all keep

          Well, the holidays are over!  Okay, most of them. We still have Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Easter and isn’t there some day in February I’m supposed to buy my wife a card?  It’s not President’s Day is it?  Hopefully she’ll leave me some kind of hint.
          In the meantime, I guess it is time to find those long parallel depressions in the ground and climb back into that all-too familiar mundane rut-of-life.  Part of my personal rut that got abandoned during the holidays is going to the gym.  So today, I’m headed down the mountain and into town to renew my membership at the Waynesville Rec Center.  I was getting out of the shower yesterday and realized that the “Spirits of Christmas (just) Past” have taken up residence around my midsection.  Have you ever noticed how similar the words exercise and exorcise are?
          The real reason I’m headed back to the gym (Shh!  Don’t tell Dr. Weaver) is I was making out my schedule for the week and realized I needed some kind of physical activity.  I wouldn’t be surprised if your day-to-day schedule isn't eerily similar to mine:  Get up, drink coffee, take the morning ablutions, eat breakfast, work, stop work, eat dinner, go to bed, repeat.  It’s sad isn’t it?  Yes, there is always Friday night, but how red can you paint a town the size of Waynesville?  Plus, much to my dismay, I have been unable to discover how the Mayans were able to stop the calendar.  It seems that no matter how hard I try to “think myself young,” my body keeps aging and this poor old guy understands that he needs more physical movement than curling a fork from the plate to my face.
          So here is my resolution:  I resolve to… 
Oh, forget that!  Why waste time on promises we’ll never keep?  What are we going to do?  Change the world?  End hunger?  Promote peace?  Save the rainforest?  Get Maury Povich off the air? (And the DNA says…)
          But seriously, how about a resolution we could all stick with? 

I resolve:
to get up each day and face its challenges with reverent prayer and gratitude, for I recognize that each day is a Divine gift;
to understand that I am fallible while working continuously to limit my faults;
to treat others the way I hope they would treat me, foibles and all;
to be the kind of person who I would respect if I met him on the street;
and most of all, when I fail, and I will fail, to get up tomorrow and start over again. 

            I figure if I start with these simple things, changing the world might not be as difficult as it seems on paper (I’m not so sure about Maury).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! January 1, 2013

          I decided to wait until this morning to really look at this new 2013 with a clear sober head and fresh focused eyes.  I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed; everything looks pretty much like it did yesterday.  Yes, we survived the end of the Mayan calendar, rampant predictions of apocalypse, and our evil self-destructive technology, but to what avail?  Is civilized humanity a success?
We recently learned from our “free press” that it is not only okay to hate, but intellectually astute to be a bigot, as long as the basis for your prejudice is wealth or an opposing political philosophy.  In defiance of popular demand and the instructive events unfolding in Europe, our spending-addicted employees in Washington DC have piloted the national economic vehicle, a la Thelma and Louise, right off the fiscal cliff.  They have saddled us with an unsustainable debt while fostering our insatiable desire to “get something free” from them.  There are still people in this world killing other people in the name of their God, children going to sleep hungry while rulers hoard the spoils of leadership, and such pervasive disrespect for life and civility that entire sectors of population hide behind the curtain of drugs, violence and crime.  In the name of progress and inclusion, we continue to de-construct the foundations of society by declaring that any “rule” based on “morality” is outdated, unneeded, and blatantly unfair to expect people to follow.  Yes, 2013 is a new year with some old problems.
          This is the time of year when we resolve to self-improve; lose weight, quit some vice, or get healthier.  We vow to inflect self-change in some innocuous way that next week when we have abandoned our plan, no one will be harmed and the only disappointment will be the need for repetition in 365 days.  What is your resolution?  Yes, I am disappointed.  All of those things listed above are just too big to change.  After all, I am just me, and you are only you.  How can we expect to change the world? 
Confucius (or was it Lao-Tsu?) said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  First of all, I wasn’t aware that the Chinese in the 5th century BC even knew what a mile was.  Secondly, wisdom always sounds smarter when we quote a dead guy, especially a philosopher.  And lastly, the world didn’t get into the shape it is instantaneously; it evolved very slowly, a single step at a time.
I know there is a great inertia dragging our society, our cultures, our traditions, and our morals further in this direction, and I don’t know about you, but I think I am going to try to take a step the other way.  I can’t resolve to fix the whole world, but if I don’t try, I will be disappointed.  It is like my old argument about religion.  If I live my life in Faith and we get to the end only to discover I was wrong, I won’t be disappointed that I lived my life morally; no harm done.  But if we get to the end and discover I was right…?  Where will you be?  Will it still be “no harm done”?  I’m going to take a step and see where it leads.