by Dodie Rogers
“OK, You guys are going to have to make some room, this is getting ridiculous.” What is actually getting ridiculous is that I am talking to the food in the refrigerator, Lori commented to herself, as she unloaded a saucepan and a large cup of who-knows-what from the top shelf, making room for today’s leftovers.
Living by one’s self brings on a certain level of relaxed kitchen hygiene, her thoughts continued. She had lived alone for almost 2 years and she kind of liked not needing to be “Ms Clean and Proper “ all the time, but yet cooking for two, eating for one was creating a refrigerator jungle she planned to get rid of today. As soon as I get the last of that report out of the way. Her mind promised herself.
The coffee pot was making grumbling noises that reminded Lori that there was an untested brew needing her attention that had been ready over an hour. Working at home had sounded like a great deal. But without better discipline, my boss was going to get far more hours of work from me than they would of expected in the office. She smiled at herself. I traded working in my P.J.’s for doing 12 hours instead of 8. Her thoughts continued. Lori Sumner, thirty with an athletic body similar to a healthy 22-year-old, gave the credit for her toned torso to her gene pool more than applied effort. Her exercise machine remained almost brand new after two years of setting in its cubby-hole off the hallway in her stylish apartment.
She had attended George Washington University here in DC, majored in Earth Sciences and was excited about her potential life when she walked out of those doors 6 years ago.
She worked up the non-profit corporate ladder , available in our nation’s capital, and had ending up applying her talents in the organized lobbyists arena. This gave her a second education of how the world worked and who run it behind the scenes, no matter who was elected to what office.
She had become known in this political world as she worked on campaigns and rally’s for environmentalists and animal rights issues. Her interests, education, and background made her an excellent projects manager and she did enjoy her work but wished for more success in their fights to protect endangered species at her job for Defenders of Wild Life.
This morning she had an hour to complete the report she was doing, listing why their fight over getting a house bill to save the wolves out of the Committee, and onto the floor. Her report needed to explain why and what could be done to improve its chances quickly before all wolves in at least three states were legally exterminated.
Lori wanted to write the plain truth in this report, but that would not be politically correct, nor socially acceptable to the cocktail party people who would be reading this report. The truth is the side with the most financial backing wins. That was it and she was spreading this truth out with lots of fancy words, instead of saying legal bribery influenced Congress to side with greedy ranchers instead of defending the poor creatures being exterminated.
Lori took a deep breath and returned to the last of the report. Giving the environmentalists some level of hope so they will donate more money was the bottom line this report needed to cover. She hit save, and pushed send, and her report whisked off across town to become part of someone else’s report and so on.
One has to attend a certain number of parties in DC, if you are going to remain a recognized force in your field. So her next duty included walking into her oversized closet to pick the right gown for tonight’s event.
An two hours later she showed her invitation to the security person at the door. She soon became part of the crowd inside, laughing and mingling people all in their finery.
Maneuvering her way through the evening gowns, clinking glasses, and laughter, her eyes caught a friendly face and headed toward her co-worker. “Good Evening”, she smiled. “Yes, and Good Evening to you as well” came the reply from Josephine Whitaker, PHD Stanford specializing in logistics forecasts for endangered species in North America.
Lori took a deep breath, exhaled slowly as she turned and looked over the steady mixture of voices carrying on a hundred conversations at once. Lori and Jo drew closer as they tried to compare thoughts about the day’s defeat.
“We don’t seem to be able to get anything passed” came out louder than Lori wanted due to a momentary reduction in the noise around them. Jo smiled and pointed to a corner that had just become available. “AH a place to set” Jo sighed.
“Did you get everything written up?” she asked as she settled down on the white loveseat sized corner sofa. “Well enough I guess, No one with money seems to care this year, about how many species are being slaughtered due to corporate greed.” Lori replied.
“Hang in there girl,” we just need to find a Billionaire who feels as we do to level the playing field. All I have heard all day is it was the fault of the other side of the isle”. Jo said while at the same time she smiled and nodded at a passing couple. ”Listen, Can we do lunch tomorrow?” Jo continued, “How about 1:30 at Lauriol Plaza? I love their drinks.” “Sounds good” replied Lori with another smile and nod to acquaintances parading by. DC is like a small town. Most are the same faces scrambling for attention, or leverage on some issue or promoting some person, or thing. Lori sipped white wine spritzer and watched the theater going on around them.
“Guess we should mingle, talk to you tomorrow” was Jo’s final comment and off she went into the crowd. Lori was standing alone and not particularly noticing anything around her, when a man’s voice interrupted her far away thought.
She turned to see a tall dark-haired man with a pleasant smile on his face. “Good Evening” he repeated, noticing that she probably didn’t hear him the first time.
”Good Evening, I’m sorry do I know you?” she asked. “No” was his reply with a slight shaking of the head and a grin. He continued “Hello, I’m Mathew, my friends call me Matt.” She was looking at some of the more perfect teeth and bewitching green eyes she had seen in a while. Combining that with his tanned skin color and the perfectly manicured haircut, how could a girl think while looking at such a perfect specimen? Lori quickly recovered her ability to speak and said “Hello Matt, I’m Lori”.
The rest of the evening was half a blur and half a dream as he charmed her and they laughed and shared small happy stories of no particular importance. Walking around the room, the drinks changed from white wine to champagne and before long they were outside in the muggy October night air and hailing a cab.
The morning light came through her bedroom like a piercing dagger and she mounded grabbing for the pillow to hide under. “Good Morning”. Lori’s eyes shot open and she didn’t even breath as she slowly raised the pillow and with tiny slits of opened eyes she looked to see who was connected to the voice that had wished her a good morning. “Good Morning” was all she could muster in return as she wondered where the closest thing was she could grab to cover herself for a dash to the bathroom. “Would you care for a robe?” she heard this pleasant baritone voice inquire. “UH, Yes, the robe should be hooked on the back of the closet door” . She was still 99% covered, shielding herself from the light and whomever it was in her room. “Thanks” she added as the robe appeared and she was off to recoup. “I took the liberty of making some coffee”, you ready for a cup?” he asked. “UH, Thanks, I am getting in the shower first.” Lori replied as she tried to piece together her night under the stream of warm water beating on her fuzzy head.
When she emerged, the hangover was still there but most of the cobwebs had washed away down the drain and she could remember his name was Matt. She smiled sheepishly and politely said “Good Morning Matt” as she wrapped a white towel around her head. He replied with a smile and added, “How do you take it? “ She was blank as to his meaning at first then a slow-too-glow light bulb arrived above her head. “Oh, a little milk please.”
After a cup and a glass of water to help hydrate her, she had pieced the night together and wished she had a clearer recollection to what was probably a very nice evening. She hadn’t been dating for almost a year and she sure wished she had total recall. “You told me last night you had a luncheon today, and so I am going to leave, but I wanted to make sure you were up and knew I enjoyed myself very much last night and would like to see you again.” Matt’s smile was still something that could take a girl’s breath away, even in the morning hours. “Uh, Yes, Let me get you my card uh, my number.” “Thanks” he replied as she handed him a card off the kitchen bar and as she turned, he took her in his arms and gave her a kiss that could cause a girl to see visions of swirling pleasure. “I’ll call later this afternoon if that is ok.” he said in a soft whisper. She found herself just smiling and nodding in a dreamy glazed state, as he turned and left.
‘Holy Shit” was her first thought. “Damn”!, came a few minutes later. Three hours passed and she had put herself together about as well as she could under the influence of her hangover.
Lori chose black slacks, a thin strapped black top with a white blazer. She run her hands through her short brown hair as the hairdryer mixed with a good cut, made her look much more professional than she felt.
When she arrived at the Plaza, Jo was already seated next to the window. She loved the snow-white table cloths and the rich pecan wooden chairs and planters that separated the booth areas.
Lori kept her stylish sunglasses on as she sat down and avoided Jo’s stare quickly followed by a friends knowing smile. “O.K.”, “What do you FEEL like today?” she said with a playful voice.
The waiter joined them before Lori had to reply. She knew the menu well and ordered the Del Mar with the small house salad, and Jo added “and we will split a pitcher of your margaritas, and I will have the Sunshine Salad.” Lori enjoyed her friend’s company and before the lunch was over, she would tell all about her new friend, or what parts she remembered. But for now, Lori just removed her shielding sun glasses and asks, “So, what do YOU want to talk about?”
Jo forwarded the conversation past what Lori wasn’t ready to discuss, though sooner or later she knew she would hear all the details, but not until her friend was ready to share.
“I’ve been listening to the DC horror stories for 5 years” Lori began. “Some have been real and some just made up”. She continued. “But there is new fear, a lowering of voices and comments including a worry of not wanting to be heard telling it. After Snowden’s confirmations, there isn’t any doubt now I guess.”
There was a pause as the waiter brought their pitcher, glasses, salads & bread to the table. “There is a level of fear on the Hill, Senators afraid to talk about things going on in our government.” Jo continued. “I was asking Senator Moreland, if there was any truth to the rumors of a secret base in Alaska manned by military other than our military. He turned and looked around before replying. That kind of body language only happens if one is afraid that others might hear. “ “So, how did he reply?” Lori asked. “Of course, he said it was quote Hog-Wash end quote.” She laughed, and took a long drink from her Margareta. ” His Arkansas choices of expression remains intact, but the fear he showed just for a minute in turning around told me more than his answer.” Jo expressed with a mouth full of salad and her napkin dobbing the corners of her mouth. There was an instant break in the conversation as the waiter arrived with the balance of their food.
Lori was hungrier than she had realized and dove into enjoying her jumbo shrimp with the chicken fajita. She had to admit the drinks were good as well and before long she had nothing left of the handover of this morning. This Morning, now that brought a smile to her face and her friend noticed.
Lori knew all too well what Jo was talking about. Rumors were everywhere in DC. Ever since *911. Everything in the government had changed. The Patriot Act changed what we had previously thought of about how our government worked.
Talk about the NSA, and a shadow government that was now in total control of surveillance on all its citizens made everyone feel unsafe. Lots of things going on around the country showing up on facebook that sounded crazy at first, then it started sounding real and little scary.
We had heard about the Private Military companies taking over much of the things we don’t want to admit doing, that was in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and who knows how many other foreign countries. But the newest stories were about such things going on right here in the USA.
Things that were not supposed to be done in our country were strongly rumored. Stories about how the United Nations was taking over more things that one would think they should.
In some respects things that the conspiracy crazies use to warn us about, seem to be happening and we normal folk have not paid attention until it seemed almost too late. If only half of what we hear was true, we are living in a different country than our parents supported and defended. “Let’s hope that what we are hearing is just propaganda lies.” Lori replied.
“Now I have something to tell you.” Lori continued. Jo’s ears perked up and the conversation turned to girl talk and the evening before, and the morning. Which set Jo to giggling and enjoying Lori’s story almost as much as if she had experienced it herself?
Jo replied with “Wow. Let’s see, His full name is? He works on or with?” Lori smiled. “Actually, I don’t know much. His name is Matt; don’t think he told me who he works for.” “Oh, I’m sure he did, you probably just don’t remember it.” Jo grinned. Lori wasn’t much of a drinker and seldom had total recall from times the girls had a few. “That might be true” Lori admitted. He will call later this afternoon, so I might inquire then. Every man in DC is either a Lawyer or Military. He was in civvies, so he is probably a lawyer. “
The conversation bounced from environmental friendly legislators and back onto concerns about surveillance and bugging of their organizations phones and emails for supposedly national security and eco-terrorists associations. “That is ridiculous” every time someone thinks differently than those in power, we are all of a sudden “terrorists”? Jo frowned.
“Hush”, came Lori’s almost automatic reply. You know they have ears everywhere if only half of what we hear is true.” These damn smart-phones for example. If they want to, they can turn on the speaker in it and make it a microphone for monitoring. “They don’t want to waste their time monitoring us.” Jo replied with a shrug. “We aren’t that interesting.” both girls laughed and continued with their drinks and meal.
They soon hugged and went their separate ways. Lori opened the door to her apartment and laid down on her bed. It was still unmade which brought a smile to her face. She hadn’t had a romantic relationship since Jerry and it ended almost two years ago. Not that this was a relationship but it had been romantic. She dosed off thinking of him and enjoying the slight buzz she had from lunch. The next thing she knew was that the phone was ringing.
“Hello there, how are you feeling?” Came the baritone sounds similar to the night before. “ Hello” she replied still in a half awake state, and her voice was more dreamy than alert. A short laugh came from the phone, “sorry did I disturb you?” “You know,” she replied,” When I came back from my lunch, I laid down and that was the last thing I knew, till you rang.” She gave a slight giggle. “Well, I wanted to say I enjoyed our evening last night and was wondering if you might be free for dinner tomorrow evening?” His voice was musical or magical, she didn’t know which, but she heard her own voice saying “Oh, you know, that sounds nice.” “Great, Can I pick you up about 7?” he replied. “ 7” she repeated, “what kind of attire” she ask. “Just casual” he replied, “Won’t keep you out late.” So there it was a second date.
Lori rolled over and drifted back off to never-never land, which meant she was wide awake a little past one in the morning. Her work-times could to some extent be whenever she wanted, so she picked up the papers around her desk, and began to read. It was a report on the recoveries of some endangered species. One species only had 17 left on the planet before we took notice. 14 years later, there were now 243. But that still wasn’t very many and there are so many regular reasons that can seriously reduce an animal’s chances of survival. A cold winter could wipe them out, plus horrid chemicals being spread around like 1080 compound. A poison that would bring on a horridly painful death of the animal that smelled, tasted, or even walked in it. Then as that animal died, the animals who comsume it, like fox or eagle, wolf would be killed as well and on and on. The animals would become very thirsty and go to water. Which would kill every thing in the stream for some area and then even after a year or more, every place an infected animal had been, would kill every other animal ever smelling the ground or having any contact. Compound 1080 was a horrid thing to turn loose in the wild, but ranchers used it. Reading such things made her angry and sick and ashamed to be a human. She read two more reports giving numbers advanced graduate students from around the country were sending us as she drifting back off to sleep. This is enough, she told herself and she quickly changed for bed, and snuggled down into the pad that fit her form and put her quickly to sleep.
“Look Out!” Matt shouted, as he pushed himself up from a low crouched position and waved his arms. He burst into a long-stride loping run down a steep gravel embankment, past and scattered rock outcroppings, and toward the packed dirt highway below.
The dozen men close behind him wore the khaki fatigues of the Pakistani Strike Force. Fierce threats of death and violence issued from them. They carried collapsible stock 9-mm submachine guns in their fists, they stormed the two dozen turban-clad freedom fighters or terrorists depending on who you were talking to, and next came a bright flash and noise of the explosion. At this point Matt jerked and woke up — Three or four quick panting breaths and he simply said “again”. This very real flashback showed Matt once again that he wasn’t so smart for he cannot keep these flashback nightmares away long enough to get a good nights rest.
Matt grumbled to himself and got up to go wash his face and try again for the sleep of a man who had not spent the last 5 years in a war. He will pick his next dream as he returns to bed; the military therapist suggested it and he was willing to try.
Let’s see, nothing about work, nothing about war, nothing that was going to blow up. I’ll pick a dream about that fine lady I met last night he grinned. Yes, Lori and I in a green meadow with a bucket of Crispy Chicken and a blanket. Now, let’s try this again, he thought to himself.
Is this story worth developing?