My friend John and his friend Danielle do a podcast titled So, There’s That (@sotheresthat2) based loosely on the fact that we all have stories. Not that any one of us has more or less, just that we do. And these stories can connect us, teach us, and ultimately help us understand and practice kindness.
At least that’s what I took from the podcast, So, There‘s Portmanteau, which began as a discussion of earbuds vs earpods and concluded by demonstrating how parts of two different words can create a whole new one….as in portmanteau.
I could say I promptly invented a new word, but that would be false. Instead, I started thinking about the endings to the phrase, So, there’s (fill in the space with the first word that hits you). And came up with, So, there’s… Joy! Google tells us that joy is:
A feeling of great pleasure and happiness
Almost too simple for something so powerful. Look at a child’s face when something wonderful happens to them. Watch the face of a wife reunited with her soldier husband, or grandparents seeing their first grandchild. After a long struggle, getting to where you’ve strived to be and knowing what you’ve accomplished, or simply taking that first step after weeks of physical therapy and knowing that yes, you will be able to walk again. Joy belongs to the person experiencing all these things. The rest of us can only share in a part of that, but it does reach us too and perhaps makes us aware of the joy in our own lives as well as what produced that almost unexplainable feeling of happiness and wonder and delight.
The miracle of joy, for want of a better description, is that we have it in our memories…it can be as far back as our first bicycle ride or as recent as our (finally) attaining a long-term goal. It goes with success, and we need to remind ourselves that for the most part, we see more success than failure in our lives. And we need to pass that feeling of joy on to our children, friends, and family. It is part of the stories of who we are and who we hope to be.
And so how did I get from portmanteau and earbuds to this? I listened to a conversation. If you get the chance, check it out. So, There’s That.. Their page is on Facebook. Just a click on the PC…
By the way, Mae knows what joy means…ask her how she felt when she found Drummond after he first left Scotland and disappeared. And how she feels every time the two of them get to spend quiet time together. These days the moments seem few and far between, but Mae has faith that there will come a time when life will be more simple. Not quite yet, though> Drum may be in good hands, but her friend Morales has just entered the lion’s den of undercover and no one including Mae knows what will happen next.
So there’s trust, and then there’s trust. I tried for three days to convince Sylvain to tell me where Morales, aka Sebastien Malerin as his Isleno cover required, was. And when he would “allow” himself to be shanghaied. And where. His cover story was simple. His family had been all but wiped out by Katrina in 2005 and he had been searching for them, finally giving up and coming back to St. Bernard Parish, his childhood home. Twelevears on the road might seem unreal to some people, but my experience told me it was possible. Drum was a rambler, searching for his own dreams. I had promised myself no harm would come to him while he wandered and could only make that happen by following his path. Although I’d caught up to him, he was not ready to return to his old ways so I stayed with him. In Charles City, Alex Morales had saved his life. I owned that debt. Morales was down here because of me.
Sylvain proved a harder nut to crack than I thoughr, so I changed my tactics and ambushed Dr. B at the clinic.
“What can I do for you, Mae?” His expression told me he knew what I wanted. “I’m afraid I have a very busy morning ahead of….”
“I only need a moment, Doctor,” I settled myself into the chair near his desk, letting him know it might take more than a moment. “I was curious as to whether you had heard anything on…”
“Really?” I smiled sweetly. “It’s been three days since…”
“Mae, I can’t give you information I don’t have. I wish I could. Sylvain and his crew have the GPS. They tell me our friend is settled and letting it be known who he is and why he’s back in New Orleans. And he’s managing to seem less than healthy. Nothing serious but enough that he seems unfit to do day jobs and spends a lot of time hanging out in the less travelled areas of the Quarter. That’s what I know. My gut tells me he’ll be heading to the free clinic in a day or two. Baiting the hook. And since he’s on his own, the attempt to ambush him should follow quickly. No one to miss him. They won’t make the mistake they made with Drum.”
“But shouldn’t one of us be…”
“No.” Dr. B. said. “And Sylvain won’t be there either. You and he were seen asking questions the day Drum was grabbed. Alex has to look like he’s got no one in the world to miss him if something happens.” He watched me, knowing I wasn’t happy with his words. “Would you like some of Camille’s special tea? She swears it melts away tension.” He chuckled at that. “It is tasty.”
“I’ve had her special tea, thank you,” I managed to smile. “Old sod and bitters is what it is. But I will try and be patient. Drum is safe and that’s to the good. I’m not convinced we’ll get the villains before they do more damage to the elderly and sickly though. It’s hard to be on the waiting end. I’m not used to that.” I stood and smoothed out my jacket, patting it to make sure I had my notebooks and herbal packets. “I have several clients to see myself before I peek in at me brother…..not so he sees me, y’ know. I’m careful. Drum could blow the whole thing.”
“I’m inclined to disagree,” Dr. B. said.
“Well, you and I certainly can’t keep him sedated once he improves, so it might be good to let him know you’re taking care of him. Or rather Mae Fitzgerald is. If he calls you Mae, it’s not a big deal. Once he’s recovering, you can manage to fill him in. Sylvain would probably say its not a good idea, but he’s out there, and we have to deal with life inside Begonia. For who knows how long. Agreed?”
I nodded. It would make my job easier not having to tiptoe around Drum, and I could keep a better eye on him as well. “Agreed,” I said. “On one condition.”
“I knew it,” he sighed. “What?”
‘Once our friend is grabbed, Sylvain shares everything he finds out. I’m not saying he’d keep secrets, but he and Morales go back a long way.”
“You think they might decide to take matters into their own hands?” Dr. B shook his head. “They’re both…”
“No, Morales is a cop. Sylvain is from the streets and parishes. He’s a good man, but he isn’t bound by the regulations and procedure that…well…he might see something that sets him off.” I opened the door to the hallway. “I think that tincture has possibilities, Doctor,” I said as I saw Camille heading my way. “I’ll keep you informed. You’ll do the same?”
“Depend on it,” he said.
The rest of my day seemed an uphill climb. Camille seemed to need something signed or checked or read, or all three, every time I popped out of one patient’s room on my way to another. Mrs. Delancy was dozing, thanks to the lavender I suspected, but I madre a note to drop by again around four. I had the feeling she was a sharper tack than even Marcus suspected. And she had a read on me as well. More than what meets the eye, ye might say. And my other charges seemed to be improving or at least stable on the treatments prescribed by the staff, including Marcus…uh…Doctor B. I would need to watch my tongue on that. Me brother was improving under the Thieves vapors and I wondered when we would let him know where he was and why.
“Mae!” I heard Dr. B’s voice behind me as I headed to my little office. “Got a minute?”
“Of course, Doctor. I was just taking a short break. Come in and I’ll brew us some tea.”
Real tea, I added to myself. I was herbaled out for the day between the smells and the lack of caffeine in my system. “Close the door if you would while I get the kettle started.”
“Please tell me you’re brewing oolong,”
“And I have scones,” I said as I saw his eyes light up. “Nothing wrong with caffeine and carbs as long as we’re judicious.” I smiled as I opened the tin of berry scones.
“And no one catches us,” he said as he reached for the largest one. “I think we can see Drum before you leave.” I measured out the tea before I answered.
“It’s not too soon? As much as it would do my heart good to talk with him I don’t want to risk too much too soon. He’s not healthy as a rule, so I know this could have killed him.”
“He’s better, Mae. You have not only my word but the attending physician’s as well. We may be a holistic center, but the owners know traditional medicine’s role as well so…”
“Why have I not seen this attending physician, then?” I couldn’t keep the suspicion out of my voice. “Is he invisible?” The whistle of the kettle stopped me from saying more until I’d poured the water over the leaves and covered the pot. “Well?”
“Not invisible, Mae. Not nefarious either, although I see the look in your eyes. I may go by the title Doctor, but it’s in the field of Holistics. I can prescribe herbs but nothing stronger…so Begonia has a house physician, duly licensed by the state. Her name is Rachell Clements and she’s very good at her job. Charms the patients like you wouldn’t believe. She examined Drum earlier this afternoon while you were attending to your own rounds and says he’s able to be awake for short periods of time. She can’t guarantee he’ll remember anything of what we tell him, but at least he can see you and know he’s safe. Now is that lovely oolong ready?”
We set four o’clock as the time to meet in me brother’s room. I could see him for a bit and then spend a moment or two with Mrs. Delancey. In the meantime, I went about my duties and tried not to think about Morales. Before I knew it, the Doc and I were standing in the doorway of Drum’s sparsely furnshed but airy room. Me brother was breathing easier, that I could tell, but it took feeling his cool forehead to convince me he was on the mend. As I stroked his rumpled hair, he opened his eyes and looked at me, not quite sure who I was.
“It’s me, ye daft man,” I said quietly. “No need to say anything. You’re safe and getting better and I’m here to make sure of it.”
“Mae?” It was a whisper. “ But I …I mean, someone took me.” He looked from me to Doctor B and made as if to get up. “Where…/”
“It’s all right, Drum. You’ve been really ill, more than we thought. Dr. B. here has been working with Dr. Clements to get you healthy but it’s taking time. I’m here too, working with them, but….”this would be tricky…”you don’t know me, because…”
“Under the covers again?” The whisper was accompanied by a pale imitation of his teasing grin. “About the people who…”
Yes, but we’re going to find them.”I kissed his forehead and left the room.
“Level with me, Doc. How close to dying was Drum?” I waited until the Doc had closed Drum’s door before I ambushed him. Drum was never healthy, even as a bairn. To be honest, I’d say that’s one of the reasons I was born. Me Da needed an heir, didn’t matter whether male or female. He was a businessman and wanted someone to follow in his footsteps. And keep the McEwan name alive too, I suppose. Fortuinately, my younger brother was born fit and feisty and took to the business straight out of university. By then, I’d been studying nursing and Drum was well, Drum was following his own path. When he disappeared, I searched until I found him. By then he was old beyond his young years. He wouldn’t come back, so I made a deal with me Da. I would keep “an eye on Drummond, lass” and he would make sure I had the funds to do just that. Within reason of course.
“Mae?” Doc’s voice called me back from the memories.
“Sorry. I was thinking about home,” I said. Not a lie but not the truth. “So how close, Doc?”
“When he was dropped on the doorstep, he was having trouble breathing. And his fever was too high. I got him in and settled and called Dr. Clements. She started him on oxygen and high powered anitbiotics, but we also used some herbal preparations to ease his breathing and relax him. Nothing that interacted with the medicine. Rachell diagnosed it as double pneumonia. Another few hours and… I’m sorry Mae.”
“You saved his life. He’ll recover. That’s the important thing. I just want him to stay as safe as possible while we go after these….”
“Why not head home a bit early, Mae? You could use some rest yourself. Lots of changes in the past few days, but I hope you’re settling into the routine here at Begonia. See you in the morning?” To my surprise, the Doc waved and went towards his office.
“Ms. Fitzgerald? Mae?” Camille’s dulcet tones came from behind me. “Are you leaving?”
“After I see Mrs. Delancey,” I managed to squeak out. “Was there something I might help you with, Camille?”
“I just wanted to let you know we’ll be placing an order for herbals and supplements tomorrow should you need to replace anything or add anything to your shelves.”
“I believe I’m fine for now, but I’ll let you know if I think of something.”
“That’s lovely. Before noon though.” She smiled, turned on her heel, and walked back toward the front entrance. I squared my shoulders and walked the short distance to Mrs. Delancey’s room, my last stop of the day. Maybe there would be some news from Sylvain.