Ghost Kid (Rough Draft) by: Joe Dwyer Chapter 1 Tom stands on a pier at a popular beach in Florida.

He is surrounded by men sitting on overturned paint buckets silently looking at the ocean. Each man is focused on a thin clear line stretching out to into the water. Their hopes and dreams are symbolized by brightly colored bobbers ridding over top of the rolling waves. Tom says to Jose, an older Cuban fisherman sitting nearby, “Have you had any bites?” Jose keeps looking at the water and laughs, “Nothing yet. But yesterday was different.” Jose has been sitting in this same spot for more then fifteen years and seems to always be there no matter which day Tom shows up. He almost disappears into the picturesque environment of the old wooden pier. Tom visits the pier every couple of weeks to fish and collect his thoughts. It is a large wooden structure that was probably built in the 1960’s to promote tourism and it has survived it’s share of hurricanes and large swell. Tom is a surfer but not a very good one. He only catches a wave or two each time but has enough fun to keep coming back. This pier is a popular surf spot and today there are a two or three surfers out in the water trying to catch a good ride even though the waves are pretty small. Tom is in a new relationship which is going great. His girlfriend Jane is not like anyone he has ever met before and she is completely out of his league but she doesn’t seem to know it. He would love to run away with her and start a new life together but it’s way to soon for that kind of thinking. So he tries to be practical and temper his enthusiasm with reality. Tom works at a big box hardware store, selling storm windows and drains in Orlando. He’s been doing this now for a few years and makes about $30k a year, after benefits and taxes. Running away with Jane would mean starting over and possibly looking for a new, better paying job. The economy sucks and so he is thinking that this dream will have to wait for good fortune to come his way first. He wears an apron at the Big box which has a huge corporate logo on the center chest. His boss is always reminding him to keep the logo visible and not to wipe his dirty hands on the logo. Tom keeps a small notepad in his apron’s pocket. When he’s not helping contractors and home owners size storm windows and drains, he writes notes to himself in his notebook. Nothing special just random thoughts and to-do lists. Sometimes he writes down his goals or dreams about the future like in this example:: Who I want to Be: - Writer, Producer, Maker, Builder, Hacker, Designer, - Adventurer, Explorer, Futurist, Minimalist,

- Healthy, Happy and Free - Steady, Stable, Quite, Reliable, A Good Listener - Stoic, Artist, Friend, Husband, Father Tom dreams about moving to Asia to start a small company in Shanghai, Danang, or Singapore. He wants to start a manufacturing/import/export business or possibly a software development and design firm. He’s not a coder and he only has an undergraduate degree in communications but he knows enough to build small websites and he is learning to program micro controller applications to run on open source hardware. .....One of the fishing poles on the pier comes alive, pulling all of the fishermen from their seats. Everyone up and moving,.... “These are the moments we wait for”, Jose says to Tom. Tom and Jose put their poles down in the white PVC pipe holders and make their way over to the corner of the pier. John, a tall and lanky, redneck has got a big fish on the line and his reel makes a hissing sound telling everyone this is a fish who is ready to fight. “Give me the neck strap!” John says. One of the guys goes through John’s NFL branded duffel bag to find a small nylon neck strap that will link the rod and real to John’s body, so he wont have to fight this fish with only his arms. “What kind of fish is it?” a nearby kid asks. “We’ll see. Just be patient” his dad says. John pulls back on the rod making a grimacing face. Then he huffs violently out of the sides of his mouth like an old train leaving the station. He winds the real as fast as he can, trying to regain some of the line that he lost when the fish made its last run. The line is tight and cuts through the water like a knife. The fish glides through the water like a jet moving parallel with the pier. John keeps reeling in line and the other fishermen look on, waiting for the fish to break the surface of the water and give them a glimpse of its form and size. The fish turns back out to sea and causes the reel to start hissing again but louder this time. “This fish is big or it wouldn’t have the strength to take out so much line so fast.”, the kid says excitedly. The father nods silently agreeing. John is starting to sweat at the edges of his sideburns and resigns to the fact that this is going to be a real fight. Each of the other men are leaning over the railing, up and down the pier; carrying on with conversations about the fish and what they think it is. Some say it’s a shark but others are convinced that it’s an amberjack or a snook. “This IS the shark bite capital of the world.” says one of the fishermen.

John also thinks that he has a toe nipping sharks on the line. John hates sharks and would love to get one of these big mother sharks up to the pier. So he decides that he has given as much line as he is willing to give and pulls back sharply on the rod. The hissing sound stops immediately and John begins reeling again. He is able to take back some of the line that was lost on the fish’s last run but then he quickly looses it again. The sweat is now showing up in a large ring on the back of his shirt and down below his arms. He keeps on reeling and eventually gains the upper hand again. Some of the fishermen watching say they can see the silver body of a large fish just under the surface about 150 yards out. More people begin to crowd in around the fishermen. John remains silent and just keeps reeling as fast as he can. Everyone now is able to see the body of a large fish gliding back and forth in the water, desperately looking for an escape from this strange and unnatural force. Just then..., the fish breaks the surface of the water and shakes it’s large head back and forth like a wet dog, trying feverishly to spit the hook. This causes even more people to move toward the end of the pier to watch the fight. John’s face is now covered in sweat and he has about reached his limit for fighting this fish. He says to his buddy in a thick southern accent, “Rich, I may need you to step in here soon.” He slows his pace of reeling but attempts to maintain a steady tension on the line to prevent the fish from taking another run out to sea. The fish is now about 55 yards out from the pier and moving parallel with the pier, almost as if to catch its breath. Everyone can see that this is in fact a very large shark and possibly a hammerhead. Atlantic hammerhead sharks can easily grow to 15 feet in length and with their unique shape they are a fast and powerful predator. John pulls hard on the rod trying to get the shark closer to the pier, saying under his breath “Get over her you son of a bitch.” The shark turns toward the pier and the line goes loose. John tries quickly to reel in the extra line. He pulls back on the rod and reels in the extra line but the fish makes a u-turn back out to sea pulling the line so fast that is snaps. In a split second John falls back with a shocked look on his face. The fish is gone. The crowd gasps unanimously and looks away. Almost as if they were ashamed to admit how interested they were in the futility of one man fighting a fish on a pier. All of the tension from the fight disappears. The fishermen return to their coolers, cigarettes, six-packs and bait buckets to check their lines and try again. Tommy and Jose sit down again and begin to talk about life. Jose is about 60 years old and he never married. He left Cuba in the 1980’s when he was 31 in a small boat with his cousins and a few other men looking for work. They had no jobs, no possessions and no reason to stay in Cuba. Jose spent his first few years in the states living in

Hollywood, a northern suburb of Miami. He started a landscaping business and did that for many years. Each day he would mow rich people’s yards, planting flowers and pulling weeds. He did most of the work himself for the first five years and later was able to afford a small crew. Eventually, he sold his landscaping business and bought a car wash just a block off of South Beach. People down there really love their cars and Jose was able to make a good living with his car wash business. Jose and Tom have fished together many times before and they are becoming good friends. They often will talk for hours about sports, business, money, women and politics. Jose is a party-line Republican and hates the way our country is changing with all of the bank bailouts, corporate give aways, and socialized medicine. He remembers what it was like growing up in a communist dictatorship and how equality means that everyone ends up with nothing. He came here with nothing and started a business mowing yards, he worked hard and eventually he succeeded. “Everyone else can do the same.” Jose says. Tom agrees with most of what Jose has to say. But he gets pretty worked up when it comes to politics and Tom tries to avoid that subject as much as possible, which is not easy with Jose. Tom gets physically nauseous just thinking about politicians. He hates the responsibility of choosing between either party, feeling that both parties are corrupt and short sighted. Tom likes to think of himself as a non-violent anarchist and doesn’t trust ambitious people. The day is almost over and Tom only caught one small white fish which he cut up for bait hours ago. He tosses his casting net into the dark waters below one last time hoping to catch one more bait fish and it comes up with nothing but a small crab. He packs up his stuff into his empty paint bucket and says goodbye to Jose and the other regulars. Then he walks down the long wooden pier and back to his car. Tom drives an 88 GMC Diesel truck which he specifically bought to run on recycled vegetable oil but has never taken the time to learn how to collect and refine bio-diesel fuel. So he uses regular diesel and every time he fills up at the station he is reminded of being a lazy environmentalist. The sun is almost resting on the horizon as Tom pull onto I-95 heading North. He grabs his cell phone and calls his girlfriend Jane. Jane rarely answers her phone because she rarely has it with her. This time she does and says, “What’s up Tom Tom?” “I caught a 20 pound tuna today. It was amazing!” Tom said. “Bullshit.” said Jane “Yes I did.” said Tom

“Really?” Jane sounds excited.... “Nope, not really.” Tom replys with a smile. “But I had fun and Jose was there today so we were able to catch up on things.” “That’s cool.” Said Jane “When will you be home?” “Bout an hour or so, wanna grab a pizza when I get back?” said Tom “Sure.” Jane said. “I’m playing with the band tonight at the Music Shack. Wanna go?” said Jane “Hell’s Yeah!” Tom said. Then Tom hung up the phone and switched on the Public Radio station for some news. The reporter explained that the jobless claims report released on Friday was worse than last month and unfortunately this month’s report makes two consecutive quarters of jobless increases this year. Tom looks out the window and thinks to himself this is shaping up to be a crappy recovery. What if there is no recovery? What if this is like the early 1930’s and everyone is happy about the banks starting to re-open hoping the hysteria is behind them.... but the Great Depression hasn’t even started yet. What if this is the second Great Depression and no one is ready? Tom thinks what would be the smart thing for him to do if five years from now everyone is searching for work, food, shelter and guns. A very small part of him is excited by this dreadful scenario. He hopes that something dramatic would happen and truly shake up the status-quo. Perhaps this may be the catalyst for him to make a mark on the world, to build a business, and a legacy. Tom knows that he’s a dreamer and he hates the fact that most of his dreams never seem to materialize. Chapter 2 Tom gets back to his house, unloads his fishing gear and hops in the shower. In the shower he continues thinking about what the Second Great Depression would look like. At first he pictures a Mad Max scene where people are randomly scattered along the sides of highways, picking though trash and looking for drops of oil and food. But then he thinks that it will be less stark and more totalitarian. He pictures the dystopian themes of 1984 and Blade Runner. People will be poorer than the androids who protect them. With million dollar drones fighting more and more of our battles for us, we don’t need soldiers, police, or firemen. It’s cheaper to automate our security and all of

the unemployed soldiers, police and firemen can be re-trained to become hedge fund traders or designers of new derivative financial products. Tom dries off and puts on some jeans and a home made t-shirt. His roommate Toby is sitting on the couch in the living room when he walks to the fridge. “Hey buddy,...” his roommate says. “How was the beach?” “Not bad. Lot’s of tourists out there today.” Tom says Toby is unemployed and training to be a marathon cartoon watcher. He hasn’t paid rent in two months and knows he needs to move out soon. Toby finds happiness through smoking pot and watching Japanese cartoons all day, every day. Tom hates him. “Have you found a place yet?” Tom says “Well, I spoke with my uncle about moving in with him but he said they’re pretty crowded with his family and all....” Toby says “So I’m thinking I may just stay at Cheril’s place.” Cheril is Toby’s pot-head girlfriend. She has a one bedroom apartment downtown where the two of them would probably last a month. “Sounds like a good idea.” Tom said “What day are you moving out?” “Oh I don’t know, probably Monday or Tuesday....” Toby says “Okay, just let me know if you need any help moving your stuff.” Tom says “Will do.” Toby said as he continued watching his 25th consecutive episode of Ghost in the Shell. Tom poured a glass of cranapple juice and thinks about how nice it will be to have his own place again, without any roommates. Tom bought his house in 2006 for $250,000. It is in a very nice part of Orlando and he had a mortgage broker “help” him qualify for the loan by re-working the numbers and applying “creative financing” technique. Tom was able to afford the payments for the first two years because he had roommates and they weren’t deadbeats like Toby. They paid on time and so did Tom. He was proud to be a home owner. His parents were proud of him and his friends lived nearby and they were also home owners. He was not making much money but he had high hopes and planed to start a clean energy business on the side.

In 2008 Tom’s mortgage rate reset to 9.5% interest (twice what it was before) and both of his roommates moved out. He scrambled to find new roommates and tried working with his new lender which bought the loan from another lender who had bought the loan from the mortgage company Tom worked with originally. The original mortgage company was out of business and being investigated for fraud. Tom liquidated his savings, his 401K, his life insurance, and everything else he had to keep up with his payments. But eventually he fell behind and there just was nothing more he could sell or do; so he stopped paying. They servicer of his mortgage began sending threatening letters and calling him at work and on his cell phone almost every day, trying to collect. The letters in his mailbox were almost entirely from the mortgage company and warning him that they will foreclose if he doesn’t catch up on his payments. But Tom was reading in the news of how the stock market was plummeting to frighteningly low levels. Giant banks were going out of business or being bought and merged into even larger banks. For about two months it seemed like the financial world was crashing down. So he thought to himself, I’m in a rough spot with my mortgage but so is the rest of the world. This gave him a strange sense of solidarity with the hedge fund traders who made millions off of complex mortgage backed securities like the one Tom’s mortgage was sold to. Tom checked out three or four different books from the local library about monetary policy and the financial history of the world. From the his mortgage meltdown, Tom received a crash course on finance and debt. He is determined never to make the same mistakes again. Jane walks into the living room right past Toby, ignoring him when he says, “Whassup?” She surprises Tom in the kitchen/laundry room doorway by grabbing his ass and planting a big fat kiss on his lips. Tom is surprised and so happy to see her. Jane quickly turns a spins around and walks to the cabinet to grab a glass, pulling it down from the top shelf she looks back at Tom and smiles. “How was your day?” Tom says. “Not bad. I did the farmer's market in the AM and picked up some new strings for tonight. Did you know that Harry’s guitar shop is going out of business?” Jane said “No way, that sucks.” Tom said. “Yeah I guess they’ve had a slow year or two and he has been struggling financially ever since his heart attack” Jane said. Harry is a punk rocker who moved to Orlando in the 1970’s and built Jane’s first guitar from scratch. He taught Jane and dozens of kids in Orlando how to play guitar. His shop is a perfect mix between Indy Rock record shop, guitar building lair, and rock band hangout. He

stopped playing live a few years ago but used to be a heavy hitter in the local music scene. “That sucks.” Tom said. “So is this concert tonight a benefit concert to raise some money for him or what?” “Yeah, I guess. “ Jane said. Tom and Jane walk outside and Tom says, “Whats that?” looking at a bright green moped parked behind his truck. “Oh, yeah that’s my new moped.” Jane says with a smile. Tom says, “Very Nice”, “Can I drive?” “Sure.” Jane says. They climb onto the green moped and fire up the 50cc motor. It sounds like an angry lawn mower as they tear off down Toms street past the park and around the corner. Tom is smiling and he loves the feeling of riding 35 mph around his block with nothing between him and the pavement in front. Jane holds onto him and rests her head on his left shoulder. She whispers in his ear, “What do you think?” “I love it. How much did it cost?” Tom says “Not much.” Jane says him not wanting to admit what she paid. Tom senses her reluctance to give him a number but decides to let it go. Both of them are trying to save up as much as possible for their travel fund. Jane wants to go to New Orleans for Jazz Fest and Tom wants to go to Charleston, SC for Christmas. Either way they estimate that they will need about $1,000 for a week or two in either destination, if they stay at the youth hostel and live on $50 per day not including transportation costs to and from the destination. Both Tom and Jane love to travel and have backpacked around in various countries prior to meeting each other. Tom has spent a few months bumming around Asia and Jane spent most of her time traveling in Eastern Europe and South America. They are quite adept at low cost travel and each one carrys a minimalist’s backpack focused on less weight and less stuff. For them life is about experiences and memories. Extra stuff just slows them down. They each have a list of places to see and things to do before they die. Jane is 26 and Tom is 33. They aren’t planning on dying any time soon but as they keep traveling the list just gets longer and longer. Here are a few from Tom’s list:

My Bucket List Experiences ○ Skydiving in Germany ○ Scuba Diving the Great Barrier Reef ○ Climbing Mt. Kilamajaro ○ Surfing in South Africa ○ Sleeping in a treehouse in the Amazon ○ Camping at the base of a Volcano in Ecuador ○ Urban photography and video in Brazil They arrive at the pizza shop and walk in to find a line at the counter. This pizza shop is a one of a kind, family owned restaurant. The food is so good that the waiting line is getting longer by the day. Most people get the salad and a slice option, which comes with a fountain drink for $7.50. Jane and Tom decide to get a pie instead and when they sit down, a friendly young woman introduces herself as Alice and offers to take their drink orders. Jane asks for a root beer and Tom gets an un-sweet tea with lemon. Alice smiles and walks away. Tom asks Jane if she has her heart set on going to New Orleans and she says “Yes.” He knows that she really wants to do Jazz Fest this year and he does too. So they agree that this will be the vacation they are saving up for. He pulls out his note pad and they begin to plan the trip, estimating all of the costs and dates of where to stay and what to see. Inside his notebook he has printed out copies of the Wikitravel pages for Both New Orleans and Charleston and he has already highlighted a few places to see. She reviews the list, grabs a pen and starts circling the ones she likes. As Jane is identifying her “must see” locations in New Orleans, Tom notices that the couple next to them are arguing loudly about personal stuff and their two kids are squirming around in the booth beside them. The angry couple continues digging into each other about how they never have enough money and how he needs a better job and doesn't help enough with the kids. He complains that she doesn’t have any patience and that he is “working is ass off” to provide enough to get by. The kids look so unhappy. The parents are even less happy. Jane grabs Tom’s attention and suggests that they do the ghost tour in downtown New Orleans. She reads off the description and both of their eyes light up.

French Quarter Phantoms
New Orleans is a Gumbo of Religions and Cultures a very unique place. Join us and satisfy your curiosity! Tales about the adventures and struggles of the Voodoo Practitioners, Priests, Nuns, the faithful and the fallen that made New Orleans forever alive.From the beginning our faith has ruled this great city. Our faith has created rumors of conspiracy, witchcraft and vampires. For some it inspired greatness. Lives have been lost, battle grounds drawn and it has created a sense of acceptance found no where

else! Give us your rejects seemed to be the motto (some would say it still is) . Did you know our famous Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau was a devout Catholic! We welcome your curiosity and questions. Join us for the most unique and interesting walking tour in New Orleans.Tour length One and a half hours.Walking distance just under one mile. This excursion moves to the top of the list. Jane loves spooky places and often drags Tom to her steam punk friend’s haunted house parties. These parties are a strange mix between trance DJ music and theatre students dressed in 19th century garb with white face paint and fancy wigs. Tom actually enjoys the parties because Jane goes all out with her costumes and looks sexy as hell in a garters and lace. Chapter 3 Tom and Jane finish eating and ride Jane’s new moped back to her house. Jane lives with her friend Jill who collects rent from Jane each month. The two of them grew up together and attended the same high school and the same college. The are practically sisters but very different. Jill has a stubborn personality and likes to talk about other people when their not around. She graduated top of her class in high school and Magna Cum Laude in college. She has a lot of confidence in her ability to judge others and isn’t shy with her opinions. Jane is smart but not as self confident as Jill. Jane likes to listen to others and tends to be more patient with the people that Jill dismisses. Jane didn’t like Tom at first and told Jane that she can “do much better”. She pointed out the obvious flaws in him such as: ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● He is poor Too much of a dreamer Not too bright Not reliable or on time Hasn’t had many long term relationships Hangs out with nerds and computer geeks Lives with a retarded pot smoking roommate Drives a stinky diesel truck

Jane agreed that some of these flaws were valid but explained to Jill that Tom was honest, loyal, a good listener and persistent. Tom called Jill 12 times before their first date and visited the Starbucks where she worked almost every day for the first month. Every time he came by he would buy an Americano with cream and ask her random question. She doesn’t remember all of the questions but here are a few: ● If you were a bug; what kind would you be? ● Do you talk in your sleep? ● How did you choose your favorite color?

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Why is there no ice in ice cream? Do you ever cry when your happy? Do you prefer a sunrise or a sunset? Why? How much will you spend on a dying pet?

Jane remembers thinking that Tom was a real weirdo at first. She refused to play his childish games but after a few weeks she was hoping that he would walk through the door with his silly face and his silly questions. She looked forward to it. He wasn’t pretending to be anything more that who he was and Jane appreciated the simplicity of his foolishness. He was a dork but without any shame and the awkward way he approached her was the only thing he could come up with. So she gave in. When Tom and Jane walked into the house, Jill was walking on the treadmill in the corner of the living room. She was dressed in black sweat pants and a white sleeveless Nike workout shirt. She said “hello” and continued walking in place. Jill was watching TMZ and checking her pulse. Tom put the left over pizza in the fridge and grabbed an empty glass from the top shelf. He poured himself some purified water from the pitcher in the fridge and looked at the photos on the door. The girls have covered their fridge with photos from their sorority sisters and their families, which are spread out all over the country. Tom has met a few of the girls already at some of the parties Jane and he went to but he is amazed by the number of husbands and children. Kids are everywhere in these photos and they all look so happy. Jane walks into the kitchen and gives Tom a kiss on the cheek when she walks by. She shouts to Jill in the other room, asking if she is coming to the concert tonight. Jill says that she plans to go but needs to catch up on some studying before she can spare the time. Jill is in grad school, studying for an MBA at the local university. She works at a bank downtown and really needs this MBA to move up to the next level. Jane says, “I’m going to play some of the new stuff I’ve been writing....” “I know and that's why I really want to go.” Jill says Tom and Jane walk into Jane’s room and Tom flops down on her bed, spreading his arms and legs wide like he is falling into a swimming pool. Her bed is so freaking comfortable that it actually feels like he is falling into water, or into clouds if clouds smelled like Jane’s perfume. He loves the way she is so feminine and so strong. Jane lays down beside him and they both look up at the ceiling with a child-like stare. The textured paint on the ceiling creates an effect of light and dark, side by side like stars in the night sky. The only noise in the room is the sound of their breathing and the murmuring television in the other room.

Tom grabs Jane’s hand and rolls over, wrapping is heavy leg around hers. He puts his face on the side of her face and kisses her cheek. The two of them stay in this moment for what seems like a lifetime of serenity and peace. Eventually she rolls over and faces him, kissing his lips and telling him, “I love you.” This isn’t the first time Jane has told him that she loves him but every time she says it, he feels like it is the first time. His heart races because he has not told her that he loves her yet but he should. He rolls back onto his back, still holding her hand and says, “Whats your favorite song you’ve written so far?” Jane sits up in her bed and replies, “Probably, The Station song” “The Station Song” is a song that she wrote about waiting for a train and it is full of old time references to steam engines and farmers leaving for the city. Jane was a history major in college and wrote her dissertation on Asian economic migration and it’s effect on rural families. This song was based on her research and it is very beautiful melodically and lyrically. “What is your favorite?” Jane asked Tom. “I like the one about your friends in Ecuador.” Tom said referring to a song that Jane wrote while backpacking through South America. It has a unique melody and tells a story about indigenous kids selling candy in the streets and how they seemed invisible to everyone but the tourists. Tom and Jane sit in bed and talk for another hour or so before making love. Their love making is unformed and full of awkward transitions from position to position. Tom tells Jane that he wants to do things in bed to make her happy but often he is too wrapped up in the moment to follow her ques and she doesn’t want to stop him in the moment. They are good in bed but not yet as good as they could be and not as comfortable with each other as necessary to discover how to improve. Jane is not shy or squeamish about sex. She knows that Tom cares deeply for her and he wants to do everything he can to satisfy her. He knows that she wants the same for him. Tom is usually so excited to be with Jane that he forgets all of the things that he knows would make her happy and only remembers what he forgot when it’s too late. He is a little more guarded when it comes to sex. His parents were very religious and conservative when it comes to sex and dating. He lost his virginity very late in life and feels that he is making up for lost time. After the sex is done, they both lie on their backs and breath, holding hands. Neither of them speak for at least five minutes and then Jane gets up and puts on her robe. Jane likes to wear

a robe after sex and usually goes to the bathroom which is down the hall, past the living room toward the back of the house. Tom pulls his jeans on without underwear and puts on a t-shirt. He goes to the fridge and pours another glass of water. Jane walks out from the bathroom, with the toilet noise running. She walks up to Tom and grabs his water and drinks half the glass, then kisses him again. Tom looks into the living room to see Jill still on the treadmill and staring at the TV like it were her only friend. He asks Jane if he can take her motor bike back to his house to get cleaned up for the show, saying that he will pick her up in his truck later. She says, “Of course.” “Just don’t crash.” Tom gives her a final kiss and walks out the door. He jumps onto the moped and races home. When he gets back to his house his roommate is gone and Tom lays down on the couch for a nap. He flips on the television and a news reporter exclaims that tropical storm Denise has just been elevated to a category 2 hurricane. She shows a map of the Caribbean and each of the projected paths for the hurricane. 3 of the 5 paths have the hurricane going right through central Florida. The reporter announces, “This Tuesday is when we expect Denise to make landfall.” Editing Done Tom smiles, thinking to himself Tuesday is his least favorite day at work and huricanes usually mean “no work.days”. Tom has lived in Florida for over 20 years and seen many Huricanes come and go. Each time they bring widespread paranoya and commotion but most of the time they come and go with less destruction than anticipated. Sure there is lots of wind and rain but thats only a reason to have a huricane party and drink until the end comes. Tom has been to a few great Huricane partys in his youth. Most of them involve making a giant garbage bucket size hunch punch / hurricane mix and inviting as many men and women as possible to one house to wait out the storm. They drink and play games and watch the new in anticipation of the destruction. Eventually the wind starts howling and the windows start shaking and people are standing out on the balcony watching lawn chairs blow into the pool, while other people get it on in back bedrooms. Eventually all the electricity goes out and the candles are lit. The storm passes and the house is trashed with bottles and cups and random people that were never invited are found passed out in the bushes. But that’s what you do at a hurricane party in Florida. Tom falls asleep. Chapter 4 Knock, knock, knock. Tom wakes up to the sound of the knocking on his red door and drifts from his couch to open it. It’s Jane and she is ready to go the music shop for Harry’s concert.

Tom quickly grabs another shit and his keys and they drive down to the event. Outside of the music shop there is a long line of people, stretching out and around the corner. “I didnt’ know that Harry was this popular.” Tom says. “Yeah, me neither.” Jane says looking out the window. After a while they find a parking spot down a residential street near the shop and walk back two blocks to the back door of the shop. Jane waves to the kid sitting at the back door and walks right in. She is carrying the guitar that Harry sold her in one hand and a back pack full of effects peddles in the other. She walks into the backstage room next to Harry’s office and drops her guitar and gear down before grabbing a PBR from the minifridge in the back of the room. There are about 10 other muscians in the room and everyone is crowded around Harry. He looks like a mix between Santa and Jerry Garcia, with a faded dead kennedy’s t-shirt on and his grandpa glasses. He looks to be in high demand so Jane sits down on the armrest of the sofa and joins in on a conversation with the other members of her band. Jane’s band is called “The Moral Hazards” and they play mostly glam band covers and a few originals from Jane and the lead singer Torry. Torry is a tall and skinny Jew who wears long dreads with one giant lock in the middle that he calls, “The Beast”. Tom thinks that torry’s hair stinks and yet admires the fact that he hasn’t washed it for something like 5 years. They are arguing about political coruption and the evil influence of Fox News on public debate. Tom and Jane try to act interested for a few minutes but they really hate politics and have little patience for the angry monologes caused by political wingers. Tom hears a band getting started in the main room and excuses himself for the debate. He winds through the crowd until he is near the front of the stage and standing right in front of the large bass guitar amp. If Tom were ever to be in a band he would like to play the bass, because it is kinda behind the scenes and yet drives most of the fundamental sounds. This band is not bad for a group of teenagers. The lead singer is a skinny black kid with a halffro and a Hendrix t-shirt on. He has a good voice and lots of energy. His guitar skills are not fully developed but he’s not afraid to try to get the sound he wants and it’s close enough to be entertaining. Tom wanders through the crowd to the front of the shop and runs into his friend Eddie Gant. Tom lifts an arm to get a bro-shake but Eddie counters with a full on chest bump catching Tom off guard and off balance. Speaking of off balance, Eddie is a trip. They first met in their freshmen year of high school. Both of them were trying out for baseball and Eddie was much better then Tom at most sports but at baseball in particular. Eddie lead the team in homeruns on and off the field. He partied hard and was always the first to push good humor over the edge and into the realm of obscenity. One time in particular, the team took a field trip to Tallahassee and Tom was rooming with Eddie in the hotel before the game. Eddie thought it would be cool if they got up on the roof of

the hotel and set fire to the towel closet for the rooftop pool, at 3am. They had been drinking and smoking by the pool with some other boys. Tom didn’t think Eddie was serious and went down stairs to get some ice only to hear the alarms go off and shortly after everyone was evacuated from the building and fire trucks filled the parking lot. Eddie finished his baseball career at a different high school and even played a few years in college. He and Tom didn’t really keep in touch. Eddie was at the concert with his on again off again girlfriend Karen and her kids. Tom wasn’t sure if either of the two boys were Eddie seed but didn’t really need to know. “Whats up man?” Eddie said “It’s been a while.” “Yeah, last I heard you were playing ball up in Georgia.” Tom said “That’s right, thats right. I played for two years and then we had a kid and I dropped out to get a job. So this is my wife, Karen.” said Eddie “Oh, congratulations. Its very nice to meet you.” Tom said. “My dad drives too fast.” the oldest boy said. Karen laughs and looks away. Eddie and Tom both laugh and Eddie smiles a giant smile and shrugs, saying “It’s true.” Just then Jane walks up behind Tom and grabs him around the waist. Tom introduces Eddie and Karen to Jane and the oldest boy says “I’m Jimmy and I like trucks; big trucks.” (moving his hands apart to depict the size of big trucks) Jane bends over to look him in the eyes and says, “Me too!” The little boy smiles and grabs his mother’s leg. The six of them walk over toward the stage and Jane and Karen are talking while Tom and Eddie go to buy some beers. Jane asks Karen “how old are your boys?” “5 years old and 18 months” Karen says. She goes on to explain that Eddie and were not expecting the youngest one but that he has been the greatest surprise of their lives. His name is Walter and he rolls his head over when he hears his name, holding tightly to his mother. Karen is clearly worn out with these two boys but she smiles and looks to be happy to be out of the house. Jane explains that she and Tom have only been dating for a few months but that they are really getting along better than anyone else she has ever dated before. Tom and Eddie come back and Karen says, “Where’s your beer? Smiling as she grabs the single beer from Eddie’s hand.” “Shit!” he says, “I forgot.” and walks back to the bar. “So are you guys living in Orlando now?” Tom says to Karen. “Yeah, we moved back a few years ago. Eddie is working with his dad at the plumbing supply shop in Casselberry.” Karen says. “He likes it. But it’s not much money and things have been slow lately.” “Yeah it’s that way at the big box store too.” Tom said.

Harry walks on stage and grabs the mic saying, “Thanks so much for all of you coming out. Let’s give around of applause for this young group. God I wish I had as much talent with I was a kid.” Everyone applauds as the high schoolers leave the stage and begin packing up their gear. Harry went on to say, “I opened this music store in 1989. Orlando was still a small town back then and I can’t believe it’s really been 33 years. When I started the business I wasn’t sure if it would last a year. I wasn’t much of a business person and the only thing I knew was that I loved music and I just figured.... (getting emotional) other people did too. It is so fulfilling to see musicians here tonight that I was able to teach how to play guitar, bass or drums. I’m just an old punk rocker that grew up with vinyl records and lots of feedback. I hope you all will have as much fun in your jobs as I have had here. Enjoy the music tonight!” Everyone in the room burst in to applause and whistles rang out from all corners of the room. It was really amazing how many people could fit into such a small music shop and there was still a crowd out front, mostly smoking and talking about local bands. The next band was a independent punk band called, “Dixieland Delight”. They tore into a hard hitting set full of soaring guitar riffs and double peddle drum beat sequences. They are very well know in the local music scene and half of the people in the crowd were devout fans. So the crowd was singing along with the mostly profane lyrics of the lead singer and songwriter. Fists were pumping into the air and many of people were pulsating up and down with the beat, sweating from every pour. It was such a joyous celebration of pent-up angst and raw energy that people out side were simply watching through the windows, since there was no more room inside. Karen and Eddie decided they should take the boys home before they start to through any tantrums and so they say goodbye to Tom and Jane and walk through the crowd to the door. Jane yells to Tom, “I don’t know how we are supposed to follow this.” Tom smiles and says, “You’ll do fine.” Jane looks at him with a smirk, saying “thanks a lot.” She heads back to the back stage room and meets up with the rest of her band as they prepare to take the stage after the “Delights”. Tom surveys the crowd to see if there is anyone else that he may know. He is surprised by how many kids are here. They all look like high school kids.... he thinks. Then the truth sets in; which is that they aren’t all high schoolers. In fact, most of them are in their twenties. He’s just the guy he never wanted to be. The thirty something guy in the crowd at the punk rock show. He thinks to himself; “Am I really that guy?” “Oh God no. I’m too cool to be that guy.” He is all alone now in the crowd, waiting for Jane to perform and decides to go out side to get away from this awful reminder of the effects of time.

Outside he decides to bum a smoke from one of the punk rock kids. Tom doesn’t smoke and is not about to start but he needs something to help him pass the time. He needs to feel some connection to the social fabric of this hipster crowd. Across the street, there is a business man who appears to be leaving work after a very long day of accounting or data entry processing or some other soon to be automated task getting into his economy sized car. He’s fumbling with his keys and puts his coffee mug on the roof while he unlocks the door and hops in, throwing his briefcase into the passenger seat. The businessman backs up and pulls off down the road with his coffee mug still resting on the roof above the drivers seat. Tom thinks, I’m not a kid but I don't wan to be that guy either. Even though that guy probably makes twice as much as Tom does or ever will at his big box store The glass window behind Tom vibrates with the bass from Janes first song. Tom can feel the sonic wave on the hairs of his neck and it’s like a warm embrace reminding him that he is still young at heart. He smiles a wry grin and turns to go back inside towards the music. Chapter 5 Inside the crowd is larger than before and Tom struggles to make his way toward the stage. He likes to stand just at the corner of the stage, close enough to see Jane’s expressions but not right in front of her. After a few minutes of elbows and excuse mes he sets up camp in his favorite spot and focuses in on Jane. She is struggling a little bit tonight but overall they are sounding good and the crowd is getting into each song. Jane looks over and smiles at Tom during one of the guitar riffs. Jane does not consider herself to be a “lead guitarist” but more of a rhythm player who helps out with backup vocals and provides harmony. They play a great set and then the crowd insists they play some more. So they play two more songs. Tom has heard all of the songs before and tonight was a good set but it wasn’t like they set the stage on fire. So Jane was a bit disappointed. The next band takes the stage and Tom walks back to the back room to congratulate Jane and the other members of the band. Jane is in a conversation with the band’s drummer when Tom walks up. She reaches out to him and smiles. After chatting with Harry about how sad she is that the shop is closing down Jane and Tom walk out the back door and to his truck. On the way back to Tom’s house they discuss the show. Jane complains that she felt she was’nt able to keep in rhythm with the drummer and that the bass player kept falling out of key. Tom explained that it wasn’t apparent to anyone if they did miss notes or if they beat was off but he could tell that she didn’t feel great about the set.

When they get back to Tom’s house they walk in and Toby is still sitting in the same seat, watching the same cartoons he was watching when they left. Tom and Jane walk back to Tom’s room and lay down in his bed. Tom turns on the television and the two of them fall asleep. When they wake up the radio alarm clock is on and the announcer is talking about the Hurricane that is heading for Florida. The national hurricane service has named it “Damien” and it is already a category 3 hurricane. Right now it is located in the carribean just east of Bermuda but it is moving quickly toward the west. The announcer says that they expect it will be a Category 4 by tomorrow and will possibly make landfall on Monday night or Tuesday early morning. Tom wakes Jane up and informs her that they need to plan a Hurricane party because there is a big storm on it way and it will be here very soon. She says, “Okay, whatever you want.” and rolls over for a few more Zzzzz’s. Tom hops up and puts on a t-shirt and walks out into the living room to find Toby passed out again on the couch with a box of cereal and his right arm, spilled out on the coffee table. It appears that he passed out mid-bite and dropped the box at the same time. This guy really needs to go, Tom thinks to himself. Tom makes a large pot of coffee and fires up the grill to make a fried egg and some biscuits. He loves being the first one up and the peaceful quiet that fill his house. It really feels like he has arrived at some level of maturity and that his life is working out for him and not a constant struggle. The smell of the biscuits and the sound of the eggs wakes up Toby, who scratching his dry scalp walks into the kitchen with wide eyes smiling. “What you cooking? Smells good.” Toby says. “Just some biscuits and eggs. “ Tom says. “Do you want some?” Tom says. “Sure. Sounds good.” Toby says. “I’m going to move most of my stuff out today. Cheril is coming by this afternoon and she’s going to help me pack.” “Thats cool.” Tom says. “Yeah, I appreciate you letting me stay these extra weeks while I get my shit together.” Toby says. “No problem” says Tom. The two guys sit side by side on the couch in front of a college football game on the television. They eat their eggs and biscuits on the coffee table in front of the brown leather couch. Tom sips his freshly brewed Egyptian coffee. Jane walks out of the bedroom wearing her jeans and one of Tom’s over-sized T-shirts. She says, “Mmmm biscuits. Smells really good.” “Help yourself there should be plenty.” says Tom

Jane grabs a plate and fills it with scrambled eggs and a large, fluffy white biscuit which she covers with butter and strawberry jelly. She pour some of the Egyptian coffee, which she introduced Tom to into a metallic travel mug and carries the plate and the mug out into the living room and flops down on the love seat. Everyone is silently eating and watching the University of Georgia football team as they prepare to kickoff against the Alabama Crimson Tide. “This is a big game for both these teams.” Says Tom “Yeah, if The Tide loose then they fall out of the top ten and out of contention for the SEC championship.” Toby says. “I hope they win.” Jane says Jane has a lot of friends who live in Alabama and football for them is like a religious experience. The whole week is tuned to the next big game and everyone know who’s playing who and what is on the line with each game. Jane went to a small private christian college in Alabama and that is how she came to know so many people up there. Her sorority was a mix of girls from all over the southeast. The largest percentage of them was obviously from Alabama but the next biggest state was probably Georgia or Florida. She was not much of a football fan before that but learned to appreciate the game after the first two years, because she watched so many big games that she had to find something interesting about the sport or she was going to go crazy. After breakfast Tom and Jane decided to go to the library and get some books about New Orleans to prepare for their up coming vacation. When Tom and Jane decide to go somewhere they really prepare for the adventure and plan ahead, all of the “must see” experience that they hope to have. In this case neither of them have ever been to NOLA and this is going to be coinciding with the yearly Jazz Festival. So they need to be really prepared for some Chaos or they may not be able to see all of the other sites New Orleans has to offer. The library is always such a bizarre place be, Tom thinks to himself. It is stacked wall to wall with knowledge on every subject the human race has pursued throughout all of recorded history. The people that work there are usually very well-read and intelligent about a wide array of subjects. They are very friendly and willing to assist anyone with any quest for knowledge they may happen to have. Nobody is trying to sell them anything and there are no giant billboards flashing with logos and slogans. But the place is filled with homeless people, who are either asleep on the reading desks or waiting to use the free, Internet connected computer terminals. The video rack which has all of the newest block buster hits is also quite popular. But other then being a homeless hangout and source for free DVD rentals, very few people use the library anymore. I guess it is a sign of the supremacy of Google for helping people find answers to trivial knowledge related questions. Tom and Jane walk up to the third floor and right past the reference desk. They know where the section is on travel books. Jane keeps walking toward the travel books and Tom peels off like a jet pilot on a mission and heads to the history section. He wants to find a book all about the history behind New Orleans. After about twenty minutes or so, they both re-connect at the table

in front of the travel section. Each of them bring 2 or 3 colorful books to the table and they begin making notes as they turn the pages. “Did you know that cemeteries in New Orleans are called “cities of the dead” and their all above ground?” Jane said. “No I didn’t.” Tom said. “Did you know that The Big Easy is the second busiest port in the U.S.?” Tom said. “nope.” said Jane “But I did know that it was the birthplace of Jazz.” Then they were quit for a while longer, each reading studiously about their next great adventure. Tom looked up from is book periodically to watch silently as Jane dug deeper and deeper in the context of one of America’s most interesting cities. She looks so cute with here reading glasses on and the look of pure nerdy anticipation. It is clear that Jane enjoys a good geek-out as much as he does. During these same few moments Jane looked and watched Tom for just the same reason and found just as much joy in watching him ponder the mysteries of New Orleans. Eventually the sneaked a peak at each other at the same time and smiled. “Are you as excited as I am about this?” Tom asked. “Probably more..... “ Jane replied. Chapter 6 At work, Tom is stacking drain gutters on top of drain gutters and whistling to himself a Miles Davis song. He has been getting increasingly excited about visiting New Orleans and seeing Miles perform at the Jazz Festival. Tom is a big fan of Miles and he has never seen him perform live. Tom is not a musician and never had the patience to learn how to sing or keep rhythm but he does love to see someone perform at the level of a true master. Part of what attracted Tom to Jane was the dedication that she has to her music. She realizes that music is probably not going to be her career but it’s not about that for her. She just loves the act of composing and performing with her band. It’s like Ansel Adams said, “I didn’t become a photographer for the money. Every photo, opens my eyes to the world and makes life richer and more vivid.” Art really is about making the artist a better person through understanding their own perspective. Tom write a short note to this regard down in his black and white composition notebook. The he goes back to stacking drains. Toms boss turns the corner saying, “Wait, wait, wait. Those haven’t been coded yet.” Tom says, “What do you mean coded? I thought we didn’t code the drains”

“I sent the email out on Friday.” his boss said. “Everything now has to be coded. Take those down and into the back. Terry will print the codes. Then you can stack them back up.” Tom started un-stacking the drain pipes and loading them onto a faded yellow dolly. He rolled the first stack into the back of the warehouse and discovered that Terry wasn’t at her desk. So he left the dolly by her desk and walked around the office area and the break room looking for her. The break room has grey walls and a bright yellow stripe down the middle of the walls, matching the bright yellow logo on his chest. He has always thought that if he stood up against the wall of the break room, then he might just blend in with the walls. And as long as he stays standing up against the wall, then he would be able to stay on break forever. Today the television in the break room was tuned to the Weather Chanel and the Weather Channel was tuned to the Hurricane just off the coast of the Bahamas. John Cantone is the reporter on site, standing on the beaches of Nassau and the wind is blowing violently. He is shouting into the mic, “It’s really getting rough here on the main Island. Everyone has gone to higher ground and taken cover except a few crazy surfers and me.” “The waves are cresting at around 15 ft. now and getting bigger by the minute.” says Cantone “The mayor of Nassau has pleaded with home owners to evacuate the beaches, due to the massive surge we expect within the next 8 to12 hours.” Tom loves this guy Cantone. He goes from disaster to disaster with his Weather Channel baseball cap and Weather Channel branded Gore-Tex storm gear. He is like the geek of doomsday reporting; and probably drives to work in a Tornado re-in-forced hummer stom chaser tank. Adrenaline is his middle name. John Adrenaline Cantone. Just then Terry walks by with a steaming bag of Burger Max in her hand. Tom calls out to her and she just keeps on walking. He follows her to the desk she has in the back of the office section and sits down by the copier. “Burger Max, ehh?” Tom says. “Yeah, what do you want?” Terry replies. “Just one fry. No I don’t want any food. I’m hear for some bar codes.” Tom says pointing to the rolling dolly to his left. Terry looks to her right and sees that there are about 40 drain pipes on Tom’s dolly. “Can I eat first?” Terry says. “Sure, sure. What do I look like? Some kind of over achiever.” Tom says. He walks back out through the break room and Cantone is now standing out on the Jetty, trying to interview a surfer who was getting out of the water. Just then a gigantic wave crashes into the rocks and Cantone is almost hurled into the raging sea. But he survies.

Tom walks out into the show room and is interrupted by a retail customer. “Ahhh, excuse me sir.” the homeowner says while reaching out to grab Tom’s arm. Tom looks down at the homeowner’s tepid grip on his arm and says with a smile, “How can I help you today, sir?” The man looks up at Tom with a lost puppy type look and says, “My septic tank is backed up.” Tom stares at him for a moment. And says, “How long has it been?” “Two days.” The man says. “Wow, your in luck. What you need is some of the chemical powder on isle 13 to kill the stink and slow the spread of the bacteria into your grass.” Tom says, “Then you are probably going to want to call a professional or if your extra handy, you can rent one of our commercial pump systems for the weekend.” The man says, “If I rent the pump how much money will I be able to save?” and “Are they easy to use?” and “What else would I need to clean it out myself?” Tom has never personally cleaned out a septic tank and would have to start bull shitting at this point if he were determined to look like an expert. But Tom doesn’t care about looking like an expert of pumping shit out of this mans yard, so he calls for backup. This is often handled by Jerry, one of Toms co-workers. Jerry is a real Jack of all trades. He tends to show up for almost all of Tom’s superhero distress calls. If Tom is in the electronics department with a Ham Radio operator, Jerry shows up. If Tom is in the HVAC department with an Absorption Chiller Engineer, Jerry shows up. If Tom is in the lumber department with Paul Bunyon, Jerry answers the call. Tom is convinced that under Jerry’s apron is a tattoo of their corporate logo. He probubly sleeps upside down in the dressing room. Jerry jumps right into explaining the joy of decompressing and draining unwanted sediment from the owner's septic tank as Tom smiles, nods, and walks away. Tom is walking with a bounce in his step and can only attribute this added spunk to John Cantone and Miles Davis. Tom has a vision in his mind of seeing Miles Davis on stage, Friday night in New Orleans. Jane will be wrapped up in his arms in front of him and both of them swaying back and forth as Miles lays down one riff after the other. He can taste the gumbo and french bread, buttered with jam in the morning. Then he is interrupted by another home owner who asks where the light bulbs are. Tom says, try isle 5, next to the extension cords. Tom chats briefly with some of the women in the customer service section. They are his favorite because they are so happy day after day. Tom thinks its because they get to solve peoples problems by handing them cash. He thinks to

himself that would be a cush job. Someone walks up to you with a receipt and a box. And you scan the receipt, take the box, put is on a shelf and hand them money. It’s like working at a bank, without all of the paperwork. Tom is convinced that bankers have it all figured out. Ever since his house wen into foreclosure and he started reading of the books on economics and finance, it is obvious that a bank is the perfect predator in a free market scheme. The federal reserve prints money from thin air and loans it to you at .25% interest. As a bank you then loan your customers 30x the amount you borrowed at 8% interest. Or if your like most banks you sell credit cards and car loans, and sub-prime mortgages to morons like Tom who are willing to pay you even greater interest. If the the bad loans stop paying, then the government gives you more money at an even lower interest rate. The neatest trick ever is called “quantitative easing.” Which is basically the government paying you to borrow money or in some cases just loaning themselves money to make inflation more likely. Inflation is by definition a tax and it is like taking a dollar of value from every 20 dollar bill you have in your wallet and giving it to the banks.

It’s like Bill Moyers said, “The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One.” Tom likes to ask the girls in the customer service department how much money they paid out each day. He trys to use this figure as an index to support his homemade poverty index. Which goes something like this. When the economy is growing, contractors buy tools and keep them. When the economy is shrinking, contractors buy tools for a job and then bring them back for a refund, not sure if they will need them the following week. This is the truest metric that Tom can use to estimate how effective the latest stimulas package was as spuring on new consumer speding. Tom is also the only person he knows that has tracked every stimulus package since the beginning of the recession in 2006. According to his count, our politicians have spent 7 trillion dollars through 9 unique stimulus packages over the last six years. Most people just aren’t paying attention. Because most people can’t afford to. After chatting up the girls at the service desk, Tom headed back to Terry’s desk. Terry was done with her burger and fries and fast at work printing out the new bar codes for Tom’s drain pipes. Terry wore thick nerdy glasses which would fit in with most of Tom’s hipster buddies if she wore them on purpose. But she just wore them like oblivious of the context. Maybe this is what Tom liked about her. That she was authentically nerdy and oblivious to the subculture that tried to look that way as ironic rebellion.

Tom doesn’t really like the hipster look but he does like most of the people for taking an angle against the pop culture styles. If Tom had a style it would be about understated utility and durability. But he doesn’t. Tom dresses like someone who works at goodwill. Terry finished coding all of the drain pipes and Tom rolls them back through the brake room, stopping for a moment to see the latest adventures of John Cantelli. Now there are about four guys from the lumber department crowded in front of the TV. Each one of them glued to the breakneck reporting style of John Cantelli. John is leaning now, against the wind; drenched by the streams of side-blowing rain. He screams to the top of his lungs, telling the last surfer to get off the beach and to find shelter. Tom laughs at how brave Cantellli must feel. He rolls his pipe out of the warehouse and down the isle toward his section, spotting a trailing homeowner from the corner of his eye. He turns quickly down a different isle and like a heat sinking missile the homeowner is right behind him. Tom sees Jerry stacking boxes of faucets and runs the tacking homeowner right past Jerry. “Can you help me with this?” with this the homeowner says to Jerry. Tom walks away smiling like a genuine, Big Box, worker bee, Ninja. Chapter 7 The hurricane is now only a few miles away from the coast. Tom and Jane are hosting small huricane party at Tom’s house. Toby moved out and the house is back to normal. Tom and Jane are making a big pot of Jambalya in honor of their trip to the Big Easy. They have invited a few of their close friends to stop by and anyone who wants to stay the night is welcome to wait out the storm and sober up till the morning. The Jambalya recipe they are using calls for 2 pounds of shrip, 1 whole chicken, and 2 pounds of Andouille sausage, 2 cups of diced onion, 2 cups of chopped green peppers, etc. They are both excited to be leaning a new recipe and hope to improve their cooking skills. The smell coming from the large pot simmering on the stove is so good. Jane mixes them both a rum and coke with lime and puts some jazz on the Pandora page on Tom’s desktop computer. A few hours later the guests begin to arrive and everyone is feeling excited about the evening. Each time that Tom and Jane open the door to let a new gues in, the wind is louder and the skys are darker. Waiting for a Florida hurricane is like a slow burning stick of dynamite. The television is set to news and weather and John Cantone is practicly the host of the party. Everyone is mingling througout the house but most of the people are congregating out on the back porch where there are many shade trees blowing back and forth. The sun is going down and the dark rain clouds are moving closer and closer. Soon it will be dark and very loud outside. Jane begins to serve up some of the delicious Jambalya and suggests that everyone come back inside to eat.

Everyone is now sitting in the living room and eating Jambalya while watching Cantone and the footage from the destruction in the Bahamas. There are some dramatic images on the screen. Large sailboats tossed onshore like dead fish. Homes covered in branches, leaves and debris. Cantone interviews one of the survivors. “So where were you last night when the storm hit?” Cantone says. “My family and I were in the center bedroom of our house. We heard some of the windows bust out and one large tree fell in the backyard. But that was the worst we got.” the man said. “What about your neighbors?” says Cantone “My neighbor across the street lost her house. A large tree fell right into her living room, busting everything to bits. But she is still alive.” the man said. Tom can see that some of the folks in the room are starting to re-think the idea of a hurricane party. One of the guests says, “I just remembered that I need to shut off the water to my house.” and left. While eating Jambalya everyone is telling stories about hurricanes they remember from years ago. Some people talk about the 2004 storms and how they really did some damage. “Charlie knocked out the electricty for my block for over a week.” one girls said. “It sucked. I had to live with my folks for the whole week. Just to take a shower.” Break (Introducing the Kid) Down the alley was a teenager with dread locks, following Tom and Jane. he was wearing a strange looking long dark jacket, which almost resembled a tunic. He was walking with very long strides and his face was down, like he was watching his shoes. Tom and Jane continued walking downt the street on their way back to the main stage. The young man in the tunic stayed about 50 feet behind them and followed them to the stage, never looking up. When they arrived at the main stage the crowd was enormouse and it was difficult to see anywhere that was not elbow to elbow fans. So Tom and Jane found a curb to stand on and it gave them just enough height to see over the crowd and get a glimpse of the band. Jane was so happy to finally be here and to see her favorite band only 60 yards away was a thrill. Tom stood behind her, with his arms wrapped around her the two of them swayed back and forth to the music. It was amazing. When the set was over they both agreed that this was the best concert they had ever seen together. They walked with the crowd down canal street and toward the hostel. The street

lights were shining and everyone, though tired was very happy. There must have been about 50,000 people in town for the festival and the streets were very crowded. Bourban street was full of partiers adn the police sat on horseback, looking down on everyone with a “don’t fuck with us.” look on their faces. But no one seemed to mind because there was plenty of alcohol and music to go around. When Tom and Jane got back to the hostel; they were surprised to see the same kid in the long jacket standing outside, texting on his cell phone. Jane walked past him slowly, looking for a clue as to who he was and why he seems to be following them around. The kid looks up and makes eye contact with Jane. His eyes were bright blue and he had an expression on his face, like someone looking into a mirror but seeing nothing in it. Jane quickly walked up the stairs and Tom followed behind seeing the strange look on the boys face. When they got inside the host at the counter asked, “How was the show?” “Oh, it was great.” Tom said “The band played all our favorite songs and the crowd went crazy. We loved it.” Jane asked, “Do you know who the young man is outside?” The host on duty looked out the window and responded, “What man?” The kid was gone and it seemed that the host had not checked him in yet so Jane said, “Nevermind.” They went up to their room and layed down on the bed. “Wow, that was great.” Tom said. “Yeah, it was like the band was connected to the street and the crowd. Like the crowd was playing the band, as the band was playing their instruments.” “Yeah, very strange and wonderful.” Jane said “So I gotta say; What is the deal with that kid we kept seeing?” Was he following us around or just a series of random coincedences?” Jane said. “I dont know.” Tom replied. “At first I thought it was just a coincedenc that we saw him in the ally and then in the crowd by the stage. But when he showed up here.... I don’t see how that can be just a coincedence.” He doesn’t look dangerous but certainly weird.” “When he looked at me on the steps; He looked surprised. Like we had met before and I felt that way too.” Jane said. “What do you mean?” Tom asked.. “It’s hard to describe but his eyes were like someone else’s, someone that I already know. But I can’t rememer who.” Jane replied.

“Well let’s keep our stuff close to us tomorrow and let me know if you see anything strange.” Tom said while laying back to go to sleep. Jane agreed and rolled onto her side. Tom snores and Jane has not hesitation in kicking him if she needs to. But typically he trys to let your fall asleep first. Which means that he usually stays up and reads for about 30 minutes each and every night. On this night he is reading a book about a young man who circumnavigates the globe in a 28 foot, single hull sailboat at the age of 16. This boy was the youngest person in history to achieve a single-handed, round the world voyage. He’s not a very good writer but he is an excellent sailor and he describes the trip in vivid detail with lots of technical explainations. Tom has always dreamed of living on a sailboat and doing some island hoping on his own sometime. So reading about a kid who went all the way around the world in a small boat, at the age of 16 is getting Tom’s juices flowing. After strugging through a rabling account of applying for and obtaining visas in south america, Tom begins to drift off to sleep. He dreams of being on a boat, not a sailboat but a conatiner ship and his ship is being overtaken by Somalie pirates. Tom is in the captians chamber and he can see through the window, that his crew is being held at gunpoint in the bow of the boat on the starbord side. He has the radio in his hands and keeps shouting, “Mayday, mayday, we are being overun by pirates!!!” No one is responding on the radio. Tom looks down and sees that the reciever’s cord for the radio is unplugged from the console. He thinks that he hears steps coming up the stairs behind him and quickly move to plug in the reciever to make a desperate call for help. But as he stoops down and surveys the consol, there apears to be no place for him to plug into. The steps behind him get louder and louder. He tries to concentrate and tells himself that there must be a plug for the reciever, somewhere between the buttons, the screens and the dials. But he can’t see any place to connect the reciever to. Just then a gunshot goes off and Tom wakes up. He is sweating and turns around in bed. At first he isn’t sure where he is but soon relizes that he was in a dream and that the pirates were not real. Another gun shot goes off and Tom gets out of bed and looks out of their window an down the street. The gun shot was real. At the end of the street, there is a crowd of people gathered around a canister and from the cannister explodes a morter round of firework which dissolves into a shimmering display in the sky. Jane is sound asleep and Tom sits in the window sil for a few more minutes thinking about his dream about his life. He believes that dreams tell us about what matters and are the manifestation of unsolved struggles in our regular lives. He considers this dream was about his overarching struggle of feeling powerless to adapt to the world and his role within it.

He goes back to sleep and the dream is gone. Chapter 8 In the morning, Tom and Jane walk downstairs and into the kitchen where there are three other guests making breakfast. Two of them are a young couple from Sweden and the other guy is a tall, skinny kid from Venezuela. Everyone speaks English and they start to describe some the cool sites they have each visited in New Orleans. The Swedish couple describes a Jazz museum that they visited the day before and how it was full of old instruments, wonderful photos, video rooms with footage from the 20’s. They even had live band that performed in the cafeteria and took requests. The girlfriend said that her favorite part of the museum was the section about the tradition of neighborhood brass bands and how they perform in parades during funerals. This tradition goes back for over 100 years and it is all about celebrating death as a triumphant graduation to the next world. People in New Orleans are great at celebrating life and this goes to show that death is just another part of life. Jane loves hearing about this musuem and Tom is already writing it down in his notebook page of “Things to do in New Orleans”. The kid from Venezuela suggested that they stop by the Voodoo shop on Canal street. He explains that this shop has been selling voodoo supplies and recipees for 60 years in the same location. Two days ago he went there and bought some voodoo rag dolls with pins in them and shipped them back to his friends in Caracus. He tells them to ask for Jeana (the shop owner’s daugher) to make them a batch of joujoula. Which is a spanish recipe for curing a hangover and also acts as a colon cleanser. After eating some free bagels with with the other guests, Tom and Jane grab their day packs and set out from the hostel and down the street toward the concert venue. They both are excited to see the jazz museum and can’t wait for the brass band performance on the main stage later that day. They walk down to the bus terminal and study the map to figure out which bus they would take to get to the Jazz museum. The city of New Orleans is split into two main regions. East of Canal and West of Canal. The bus terminal is located in the Eastern region and so is the Jazz museum but it is about 8 or 9 miles North from where the bus station is located. So they figure out that they will need to take the number 5 bus east to the Jespton stop and then transfer to the 22 bus North to the music street exit. Then they just walk a block and a half West and they are at the Jazz Museum. So they buy their tickets and jump on the number 5 bus. As they ride through the streets of New Orleans, they see that the city is alive and just like any other metropolotan city. The other people on the bus are mostly on their way to work, school, or other domestic endevors. One woman sitting next to Tom is coming home from the grocery store with about 5 bags of groceries hanging from her sides, like wayward children spilling out to the floor of the bus. She does not look inconvienenced or upset as the groceries shift back and forth with every turn. She is mostly looking out the window and seems to be deep in thought.

Jane points to a large wall covered in highly detailed graffiti. The text on the wall is comprised of various homemade fonts and designs and has slogans like “Rat Faced Bitches” and “FEMA Fuck Off!” “Niggas Hate Bush” “Anarchist Revival Is Go.” Jane and Tom both love grafitti and consider it one of the most enduring forms of modern artistic form. They evern tried to do some grafitti one night. They went down to the train depot and both started tagging the side of a tanker with green party slogans. The whole time they were worried about getting caught and after about 20 minutes they saw a person walking around the engine with a flash light and bolted toward their parked car. When they finally got to the museum, they bought tickets and walked inside. Next to the entrance was a large wax model of Winston Marsallas. He had his famous trumpet in one hand and the quintensentail red and white plunger in the other. They joined up with a tour guide who was just starting to take people around and made their way from exhibit to exhibit. The museum was very well deigned and they finished the tour each with a better appreciation of Jazz music and New Orleans history. They took the buses back to the main section of town and when the got off at the station they could hear Reagee bass and drums billowing out for the main stage. So they quickly made their way to the main stage and both were rocking out with Damien Marley in clouds of green smoke and bobbing heads. Dread locks were every where they turned and it reminded them of the kid from the day before. They couldn't help but think that he was in the crowd somewhere with his dreadlocks and long dark jacket. Every couple of minutes Tom and Jane would take a double take, thinking that one of the kids in the crowd was him but they never mentioned it to each other. The crowd continued to get wilder and larger as the performance went on. It seemed that everyone was smoking up and feeling loose. Tom was never much of a pot smoker but he did have a toke from time to time. Jane was the same way. This night they found it irresistible and decided to join some high school kids standing nearby as they passed a fat joint around the circle. Jane tried it first and then passed to to Tom who took a few deep draws before coughing a few times and passing it back around the horn. They took a few more hits before the joint was fully cached out and kids just smiled at their older friends. Saying this is some good shit, right? Tom just nodded his head saying yes and keeping rhythm with the band, who happened to be playing “Welcome to Jam-Rock” which is one of Tom’s favorite songs. Tom and Jane continued dancing to the heavy bass beats until the final song. The reagee band was done and it was time for Widespread Panic and Massive Attack to do a joint set. Tom and Jane moved closer to the stage and found a great spot next to the sound engineer’s booth. From this position they were standing on the edge of a cross street which was also raised up onto a platform. The meant that they were almost even with the stage and able to look over most of the crowd. There was no one in front of them and so they could see for miles. There

was a rail in from of Jane and she and Tom both leaned onto the rail and were comfortably supported. It was like box seats and the bands were just getting started. Jane love the sound of Massive Attack and models some of her guitar melodies to mimmick the soaring sounds that they are famous for. Tom is also a big fan of them but he is surprised to see them performing with one of this favorite bands from college, Widespread Panic. Both of these bands are well known for taking chances and developing the sound of each song no matter the experimental music takes them. Both Tom and Jane are really getting into the musice and enjoying the band when Tom stops dancing and stares into the crowd below, like a hound dog catching the scent of a fox. Right below them is the kid from the hostel. He is standing still in a crowd of dancing people. He is staring straight up at Tom and Jane. Tom sees him and both Tom and the kid are locked in a silent stare for what seems like an hour or more. Eventually the moment passes and the kid disappears into the pulsating crowd below. Tom struggles with weather or not to tell Jane that he saw the kid again. But Jane kept asking him why he was acting so strange. “Are you okay?” she says. “You’ve been acting really strange for most of the night. Are you drunk?” Jane says. “No. I’m just getting tired.” Tom says, deciding not to tell her about the kid. Tom figures that they are going to be leaving tomorrow and why scare her, making a big deal out of nothing. They stay till the end of the last concert and then walk back toward the hostel. The crowd is dense and no one is getting anywhere fast. So like cattle they walk; on slow step after the other down the main street. Their only entertainment is watching the police apprehend some people who were fighting. They saw one girl take a straight up nose dive, landing on her face and that was scary until she got up, laughing. Eventually they got down to the street where the hostel is on and were able to turn and avoid the crowd. They made up for lost time by walking fast and went straight to their room. Jane jumped in the shower and Tom stood by the window looking out for you know who. There were a few people down on the street but no sign of the crazy looking kid. Tom was not sure why or how this kid kept showing up everywhere that they went but he knew that it was not an accident. They stared at each other during the concert and the kid looked determined to make contact. Tom locked the door and the window before hoping in the shower. He kept rolling over the image of the blue eyed kid in the crowd, wearing the same dark jacket from before. He was not dancing, smiling and his back was turned to the stage like he was only there for one reason and Tom had to find out what that reason was. After finishing his shower, Tom walked out into the bedroom and Jane was already in bed oblivious to the strange events which had taken place at the concert.

Tom walked around by the window a few more minutes thinking about the events which he had seen over the last few days. He was comforted by the fact that they were leaving in the morning and would be back in Orlando that night. It was a great trip in every way, except for this weird kid that stalked them. When Tom and Jane got off the plane in Orlando they had to wait an hour before the Lynx bus would be at the airport to pick them up. They slept most of the time while waiting for the bus. Chapter 9 Back home Tom was happy to have his house all to himself. No roommate, no mess, no work for a few days thanks to a three day weekend. He sat down at his computer and started looking through some of his photos from the trip. Jane is an excellent photographer and was able to capture some really neat views of the concerts and the city. There was one shot in particular of the Missippii rive that she took with a mother and daughter playing in the grass with the mighty river behind them. It was so beautiful and by looking through the photos Tom felt that he was able to enjoy the trip again. There is always a bitter sweet feeling when they get back from an adventure, where the real world crashes in and just doesn’t live up to the life they glimpsed on the road. Tom wonders to himself if it is possible to live a life where every day is more like the adventure and where reality is as exciting as the trips he takes. Maybe it is possible or maybe he’s just being immature. The next day Tom sleeps in and does some laundry, cleans the house and then meets up with Jane to walk around downtown Orlando. They like to walk down by lake eola and stop at Wall Street or Casey’s for a Saturday afternoon pint and to pick up some books or dvds from the library downtown. It is a nice tradition that they are growing quite fond of. Its amazing to Tom that he and Jane have only known each other for a few months and yet it feels like they have been friends for years. Like they were traveling the same road all along and just five or ten minutes apart. Tom has never had this type of effortless chemistry with anyone before and he is really beginning to think that this may be what love feels like. Tom rides his bike over to Jane’s apartment and the two of them ride together downtown. After locking their bikes up at the entrance to the library, they walk up to the third floor. Tom is checking out the photography section and Jane is reading a book about paranormal psychology. Both of them sit down at a table next to some homeless looking guys; one of which is asleep with his head down on the table. Tom asks Jane why size lenses she uses most and she responds, saying probably my 24-

105mm lens. Tom looks at her with a look of playful confusion. Jane grabs his book and flips to the lens’s section and the point out the style she likes.

“See, these here are for long distances and wide angles. But these are for up close shots.” Jane says. “Yeah but what about if you aren’t sure and just need something versitle.” asks Tom “That’s whay may 24-105mm lens is for.” Jane says with a smile. “Oh. I see.” Says Tom “Let’s check these out and go grab a beer.” “Sounds good to me.” Jane says. They both check out some books and make their way to The Crooked Bayou, a little bar near wall street. It has a New Orleans theme and so they sit down and order a few IPA beers. Jane is on a ghost researching kick ever since they took the haunted ghost tour of New Orleans. It was very interesting, especially when they visited some of the older cemeteries in New Orleans. The tour guide was an excellent story teller and really made the early evening tour feel like it was mid night and the spirits where all around. Jane loves scary movies. Not the kind that are all about torture and guts but the spooky and suspenseful kind. The kind where the monster is never shown and just shows up at the end. Tom is not a true believer when it comes to the undead ghosts and spirits. It is good for stories and movies but there is nothing like that in the real world. The bar is pretty crowded for a Saturday morning crowd. A popular football team is playing for the SEC championship on the big screen and this must be the reason for the large crowd. Tom and Jane like watching a good game but neither of them are that committed the individual teams or players. They will watch it if its on but that's about it. Tom orders another round of beers and then walks to the bathroom. Right after he stood up and walked away, Jane sees the kid with the dreadlocks walk past the window behind the large TV screen. He looks at her and their eyes lock again. The kid quickly looks forward and keeps walking. Jane hops up from her seat and runs out the door, almost knnocking her beer off the table in her rush to get outside. She runs into a couple on thier way into the bar and keeps moving to the street like the people she hit were misplaced furniture. When she gets out the door and onto the side walk she looks down the street and the kid is gone. Jane can’t decide whether or not to chase after the kid or to go back for Tom. She runs her fingers through her hair and trys to calm herself, saying “It can’t be him. No fucking way.” “She looks up and down, shocked. He heart is racing.”

Tom comes out of the bathroom and sees Jane standing on the sidewalk outside with her hands on either side of her head and he quickly joins her outside. “What’s going on?” He asks Jane shakes her head and stares at Tom saying, “I saw that kid again.” “Which kid?” Tom says puzzled She looks at him again. His head falls back and he can’t believe it. “The kid from New Orleans.” He says “Yeah the crazy kid.” She says. “I was watching the game and he walked by in the window. He looked at me and when he saw that I saw him, he ran. I tried to get outside to be sure. But he was gone.” Jane said. “Which way did he go?” asked Tom “That way.” Jane said as she pointed behind Tom Tom stood there puzzled about whether or not to go after him and try to find out who he is. Tom can see that Jane is freaking out so he reaches out to hold her. They hug and looking back through the window Tom sees that most of the people in the bar are now staring at the two of them like they are crazy. They walk back inside and sit down. Both of them are in shock. They spend the next few minutes silently staring at the television screen, almost just to blend in. Then Tom says to Jane, “Do you think he may have followed us to New Orleans?” “What do you mean?” asked Jane. “I mean maybe he lives here and has been stalking one of us for a while.” Tom said feeling that he should not have speculated like this. “No, I doubt that.” said Jane. “If it was him, I think that he’s just crazy.” “I think we should call the police and at least let them know about what’s happening.” Jane says “But what are they going to do? He hasn't broken any laws.” Tom says “I know but I don’t think we should wait until he does.” Jane says

“No, no I agree.” says Tom “We can call them right now. They are probably going to want a description and a statement about each time we've seen him and where.” “If you want to, we can go to the station right now and spend the rest of the afternoon filling out paper work and forms.“ said Tom Jane can tell that Tom is not excited about spending the afternoon at the police station but she also does not feel safe or confident about this turn of events. Both of them are sitting there in this bar with almost full glasses of beer. They are surrounded by people smiling, laughing, and cheering on the teams but neither of them know what to do next.