Pathway to Freedom Broken and Healed: Book Two the Raw Truth – Series Part One – Chapters One and Two
By Patty L. Fletcher
Copyright July 28, 2023
If you’ve not read the prequel to this series, please stop and visit,
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Five days from now, on August 5, 2023, Blue and I will celebrate two years since returning from The Seeing Eye.
Today, I’m celebrating the freedom of purging the past from my life. I’m pleased and privileged to be able to share what went before in my life with you in this way.
It is my hope, someone reading finding themselves in similar circumstance, will see they’re not alone and gain strength from my words.
Had I known another in whom I felt I could trust the secret with, things in my life might not have gone so far off the rails. Thankfully I survived, and it is that story I’ve to tell.
I believe, Mother father God have laid it upon my heart to do.
So, now, I extend an invitation along this journey to you.
Solstice and the Slow Awakening
“I know that I’m alive, because I can look behind me, and see the wreckage of my life.”
December 23, 2014
) Just After Dawn…
The city woke around me, as I sat having my first hot strong, cup of coffee. As usual I heard the comforting sounds of it coming to life. The roar of the factory seemingly no more than a stone’s throw from my house, the sounds of children and their minders walking to school. For me, it was like sitting at the kitchen table with your first cup of the day listening to your loved ones awakening after a long deep peaceful slumber.
If you listened very carefully early in the morning The echoing train whistle seemed ever present announcing the coming and going of trains. Although they were only freight, when the weather was warm, I would sit on the porch swing with my early morning coffee and smoke, Campbell at my feet imagining where the trains were going. Sometimes, I wished I were on them. Riding along just going wherever the rails took me, without so much as a look back. Just me and my ever-faithful dog and a knapsack on my back going off to see the world.
It was always the same. a never-ending steady stream of Cars, trucks, and busses going to and FRO. A portal, taking people to work, school, or anywhere else they might need or want to go.
Feet pounding down the walk. Dashing across the street at the corner stop sign. Neighbors calling hello. On it went. It was to me at times as powerful as the pull of the full moon on the forest on a quiet summer’s eve must feel to a warrior just before battle.
Feeling the pull of a street or having a building’s presents touch me in some way, to assist me through my day is no different than someone using the stars to chart their way in a deep forest or on the open sea. I supposed just as the moon and stars give off and leave behind energy so do each one of us, leave our energy imprint behind on streets and in buildings. After all both streets and buildings are made up of at least some of the four elements so it seemed only natural they would give off a presence.
I grimaced at the thought of my newfound Spiritual Awareness. I’d gotten off on the wrong track. Having issue with reversing directions, which turned out to include writing and casting spells. Then falling in with someone who took advantage of this unfortunate problem, I did some careless work. I knew it would be a long-time healing and rebuilding from the damage I’d done. Not realizing spatial disorientation could mess up a spell the same as a walk down a quiet street some of what I’d cast had horrific results. Now, I had a chance to try and do some good work.
I tried to relax and gather my thoughts. I wanted to make good use of this day. It was my only day off for the entire week. I’d scheduled a Door-to-Door KATS van to take us to the City Public Library. I wanted to donate one of my books to them. I also wanted to get a valid Library card so that I could make use of their audio book section. Things were looking up just a bit. My first book was published in mid-summer. I was doing OK for a first-time Self-Published author, who didn’t know what the hell she was doing. Work was stressful, but I hoped we’d pick up some new volunteers as the New Year came in. Things would be OK, I just had to keep believing. I just had to have faith.
This wasn’t like believing in the façade of the last few months of mine and Donnie’s life together. This was my job. Something I’d taken on in an odd circumstance. A bittersweet moment when a coworker, adversary, and sometimes friend had died. The job needed to go on and like it or not, the board had to agree I was well-trained and had done it before Linda’s death, so the job was given to me.
I’d finally come to realize; they’d hoped it would be temporary. But “Surprise!” That had been four years ago. Turned out, I was good at it.
These days, however, it was a struggle. Volunteers were leaving. Various reasons given. Every single one was valid. Many, I’d taken to Lynn, but he didn’t appear to care about things as he’d once done.
Things were changing. I was changing, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I was willing to hang on.
I slammed the door on those thoughts and continued to try and relax. I wanted to meditate and concentrate on the power of prosperity and positivity for the day, but as those thoughts ran around my head, the clothes dryer beeped, a horn blared and the spell I’d barely been clinging to was broken.
) A Look Within a Look Without…
I stood and stretched. Breathing deeply, working to clear my mind. Trying to decide how to dress. It was pouring rain out. This frustrated me “Rain again!” I said scornfully. In the end, I laughed. “Seems to me, King Campbell and I have been facing every new challenge and fear in the rain from day one. Why did I think today would be any different?” As the words I spoke drifted away the chimes on the porch rang a beautiful rainy wind-filled song in agreement.
I walked past the rugged black lab, who had captured my heart four years before, curled up snoring on the couch, and gave him a gentle pat as I passed. Celine Kitty, who had been with me almost 16 years lay just a few feet away on the coffee table, purring lovingly up at me when I petted her while walking by. Then, just as I turned the corner to go down the hall to the dryer Kitty Bob was found as my hand brushed passed, lying on the arm of the loveseat waiting patiently for a pet. He raised his big head and gave a tiny squeak, which tickled me, so I rewarded him with a good scratching behind the ears, and under the chin. He was so very big and handsome it seemed to me something that large should roar not squeak. We enjoyed a moment together as he stood, arched his back, and butted his head against my face as I leaned down for Kitty Kisses.
It had taken some time for Kitty Bob to find it within himself to trust me. He’d had it rough shortly after Donnie had gone. He developed a hematoma in his ear, and I had to have it surgically drained, and stitched. I’d decided after realizing what would be involved to have him neutered at the same time. I was in the process of moving from up to downstairs and left him in boarding until it was complete.
Then, the pitiful thing had returned, to find not only had his master not come back, but I’d moved in and brought Celene Kitty and Campbell with me. This along with Rocky’s just learning good house manners had nearly been too much. It wasn’t until a few weeks later during a particularly bad spring storm that he learned I was someone he could count on. He’d gone outside to terrorize the squirrels. A brief time later it began to thunder, and before he could get all the way back to the house the storm struck! He was under the big Tree in the front yard, named Grandmother Tree, yowling for all he was worth. I splashed out and grabbed him up, and together we made a mad dash back to the house, my bare feet sinking into the soft mud, Kitty Bob soaking wet clinging to me with everything he had. Once the horror of it had passed for him, we were fast friends.
Gods how Donnie had bitched at me when he’d called and learned how much I’d spent.
“300 dollars!” he shouted.
“Yes. Gods Damn It!” I shouted back. The cat was not in good health. You left a lot of messes for me to clear up here, so don’t bitch. I gave you a chance to do the right thing for me and the animals. Three months wasted. I cannot imagine what the people at the courthouse thought of me. Not to mention the lawyers and judge. Fool I was, no more. I’m dealing with things the best I can. You’re going to have to do more for yourself.”
It had been the first time I’d stood up to Donnie since his going to jail, and it had felt damn good. No. More. It had felt liberating. At the same time I celebrated a bit of my newfound yet feared freedom, I suffered nightmares where Donnie escaped from prison to punish me for disobeying him when spending so extravagantly at the vet. Over time, these subsided and the feelings of fear turned to anger. Anger at Donnie for allowing himself to turn into such a hideous being. Anger at myself for allowing such a hideous being to ravage my life.
With the help of a few stable and supportive friends and a great therapy plan, I would eventually overcome it all. However, there were times when living felt like breathing shattered glass. I was lucky to say the least. We were coming into our second winter even more so on our own, as I’d been shedding freeloading friends, and turning more introverted each day.
The last few seasons had been difficult. When this one ended, they would make up our first complete year without Donnie. For good or ill, he’d been a constant presence in my life for just over ten years. Like it or not I’d missed him. It is true. “Sometimes the Devil You Know, is Better than the Devil You Don’t.” Or, “Better” should be replaced with “easier.” I had no idea how used to things with him I’d become. He took care of and allowed me, just enough of Everything to cause me to become complacent, and I’d done it his way for so long, I didn’t realize how much of my life he controlled, until that is, I had to do it on my own without him. There had been times like when my water was turned off on one of the coldest days, yet that winter due to my simply having forgotten to pay it and I’d had to draw water from the back of the toilet tank where it ran in from the ground when I felt I couldn’t go one more step. The dogs hadn’t minded drinking it, although it was evident from the way they’d followed, one heeling on each side watching my every move as I’d done the chore that even they knew something was amiss.
Coming to realize I’d been living in captivity, unaware of how he’d taken my passion and paycheck from my job and used it to build a beautiful cage only increased my self-loathing. Knowing he’d taken money I’d worked long and at times grueling hours to obtain and used it for his filthy pursuits while I lived what I thought was turning out to be a good life in that beautiful horrible cage. made me ill.
) Flashback – Flashforward
Writing of these things now is not as hard as admitting them to myself was. I felt shame like Nothing I Ever Knew Could Exist. It’s been a while since I could hold my head up while saying them aloud.
Campbell, Celine Kitty, Kitty Bob, and I were the Campbell Kingdom, and Happy Were We!
We had moved from the upstairs apartment Campbell Celine Kitty and I had called home for the first year or so of our lives together, and there were many days when I painfully regretted it, for it felt like giving up a part of myself, but Through good times and bad we’d endured a lot and then we’d come through yet another awesome and exciting rite of passage when Campbell and I had gone to Florida and discovered a phase of the bonding process neither of us had known existed. When Rocky the other 4-Legged Man had left for what would be the last time I’d begun the second part of my journey with Campbell and one that I believe some thought well overdue.
When we’d come back from visiting Mike in Florida, I’d realized that Rocky needed to live somewhere else. I’d begun to see there were problems before we’d left for our trip, but when I’d come back on that Sunday before Labor Day and Rocky had remained in boarding due to the vet being closed it soon became very apparent that Rocky was a major part of many problems going on with the animals.
Celine’s behavior of hiding in the kitchen stopped immediately Bob Cat began to snuggle and hang out on my lap more, and Campbell? He was a different dog, relaxed and playful more than he’d been in quite some time. Rocky had begun to be aggressive and even downright mean to Campbell. I believed it was because Rocky had to stay home in a crate all day, Campbell got to go with me and that along with the fact that I couldn’t Walk him and help him work off his high-energy level as he needed was starting to cause Rocky real anger issues.
After a lot of thought and tears, I made the decision to leave him at boarding and find a new home. I knew if I brought him back to the house, I might weaken and keep him and that was a selfish and dangerous decision. Eventually he and Campbell were going to hurt one another. They’d come close a couple of times, and once when they’d seriously started to go at each other, and I’d had to break them apart physically I’d gotten nipped in the process. I don’t know for sure who did it. I knew it had been an accident, it is almost inevitable when you reach in between two snapping and snarling dogs.
Rocky and Campbell had always loved each other, and that had begun to end. I noticed it had begun to take longer and longer for them to patch things up after a fight.
When the bad one had happened, it had taken a week before I’d felt even remotely comfortable leaving them alone together.
After a few days of heavy Facebook posting and calling everyone I knew I found a home.
One of the KATS drivers had heard of his plight and was a dog lover. She and her family went to the vet to meet him, and it was love at first sight. They took him home and said many times it was as if he were always there.
It was another decision I felt good about having made.
I was trying to get my life together, and I knew it was going to be quite a process. I’ve made many mistakes over the last few years. Allowing Donnie to take my life over in the ways I’d done, regardless of the reasons, had caused great turmoil for many people I cared for. I’d lost touch with my daughter, grandchildren, and drew due to some wrong decision making on my part. I had quite a bit of damage control to do, and I knew that began with me. I had no idea if I could make it, or what would happen. There were a lot of rough spots yet ahead, and I looked forward with a strange mix of sadness, fear, and excitement.
Now, as I began sorting the clothes out of the dryer, I shoved the jumbled feelings away and focused on the good and smiled.
There was nothing to do for what had been. I was trying with all my might to get and stay well. though it was still a day-to-day struggle, and I was beginning to learn it would always be, I knew there was nothing to do but continue to go “FORWARD” as best I could and try to give those who were disappointed in me reason to be proud once again.
That thought sparked a memory.
I stood where I was for a moment, smiling as it came into focus.
I remember walking down the main hall at The Seeing Eye, and as I did, I heard friendly voices behind me. I continued to walk but turning slightly to look over my shoulder to see who it was and join in the chatter I threw Campbell off and slammed straight into John Keane and Drew.
To say I was embarrassed, caught off guard and worried about what was going to happen next all at once would’ve been an understatement even for me.
I remembered as I stood stock still, wishing at that moment that there truly was a trap door right under me, that it would open, and that the dungeon Drew and Lukas had teased me about so often during class was real.
If only I could hide there until the two of them disappeared.
Drew, however, was as always, his calm self. He reached out with one hand, took me by the arm and turning me back around said softly but firmly, “Ms. Fletcher, if you are always looking behind you will have no idea where you are going.”
The memory of his smiling yet serious voice, and the words he’d said faded as quick as it had come. It irked me a bit, but I knew he was right and though neither of us could’ve known it then, in many ways. A wrinkle in time? Echoes from a loop repeating? Or just some odd circumstance?
Today, it was of no matter. I wanted to get a copy of my book on my very own city’s Public Library shelf, get a real library card, and use their services.
My mind drifted as I pulled clothes out and sorted them. While working, I ran across an old Florida beach towel. That started me thinking about the wonderful memory of mine and Campbell’s trip to Orlando Florida, in September, to meet Mike Tate, a fellow Seeing Eye Grad and Friend of mine at the time. Mike was celebrating the 3RD anniversary of his kidney transplant. Wow! What a party that did turn out to be
Looking back on that time now, thinking of all the mistakes I made on that trip, I cringe and duck my head in shame even as I sit in my kitchen with only my dosing dog as a witness. I know I was easily lead during that time. I was so sick, I’ve no idea how I managed a trip like that. It was thanks to the solid guide dog training I’d had and the fact that Campbell kept me grounded as I went along my errant way. Even with all the mania mayhem Mike and I caused it was still a grand experience for mine and Campbell’s partnership.
As I continued with the laundry, my mind drifted to that not so long-ago happy time.
Seemed to me it was just yesterday.
Once we’d gotten Rocky Dog to the vet for boarding, gotten Campbell’s Rabies shots, and made a mad dash to the store for last minute supplies we were off. At the airport, Campbell’s work was fantastic. He followed my friend Greg beautifully. When he’d left us a few minutes later with the airport staff the fun really had begun.
Campbell worked through security and on to the plane absolutely without flaw. Just getting airborne was a fantastic thing.
As Campbell and I were preparing to settle into our seat, with me buckled in and him resting quietly at my feet, the attendant walked up and said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry to trouble you, but would you mind moving to another area, it appears these seat arrangements will not work for the others to be seated here. I started to protest. Started to ask why the other passengers couldn’t sit somewhere else, but just as I was about to open my mouth, I wondered, “Wouldn’t it look allot better for me to just move and say nothing? Won’t it make the ‘others’ look more inhospitable? Doesn’t that make me a bigger person? Well…” I chided myself, “Long as you’re not doing it to be a ‘Wise Ass’.” I decided either case it would be easier for me to move, so I collected my carry-on and dog, and followed her out to another row of seats. They too were unoccupied, and I briefly wondered again, why could the others not have moved? As it turned out I ended up with the better end of the deal. There was more room in the floor area for Campbell, and this made both of us incredibly comfortable.
On top of that because I’d been so gracious about moving and had caused no trouble, the captain told the head flight attendant to give me my choice of drinks for free from the snack cart. So, for me the trip was fantastic!
Finally, we were readying to land, and I’d begun to get nervous, but as it turns out I had no need. As usual the Seeing Eye training Campbell and I’d received was spot on!
When we landed Campbell nearly flew through the airport. I’d instructed my assistant of the best way to help, and off we’d gone! I’d never worked Campbell as I did that day. His pull was different than anything I’d ever known before. He was tapped in, tuned in, and turned on! He was in a word “Rockin” He loved it.
I had to jog to keep up with him but keep up with him I did, and it was the coolest thing ever!
Rather than following the assistant which due to my lack of confidence I am at times guilty of, I’d let Campbell take the lead and the assistant coached us from behind. It had made for a completely unique experience. It was the most awesome thing I ever felt! It felt like flying. We moved so quickly throughout all the crowds. We never ran in to one person or thing. Campbell did everything I asked him, and even when we went past a tiny yipping dog Campbell never flinched nor did he bother to so much as turn his head. He simply kept right on going, and when we arrived at the baggage claim Mike and his friend Bill were there, it seemed as if Campbell was even more fired up than ever!
It was as if he could barely stand still while we made our introductions and readied ourselves to leave the airport.
When we were ready to leave, I let Mike and Pluto take the lead, and was going to follow Bill out, but instead, Bill who had been traveling with Mike and his working dogs for many years, encouraged me to follow Mike, and Pluto and let Campbell get used to working with them. He was right to have done it this way and the experience of working Campbell out of there and to the van was Awesome! It rocked! Just when I thought I’d burst with pride, Campbell had suddenly made a sharp left, and seconds before I could correct bill called out in a laughing voice, “Pit! Stop!” A moment or two later Campbell was done, and we fell back into line behind Pluto and Mike. As we did so, Campbell gave a big! Wiggly! Waggly! Jingly! Shake! As if to say…” Sheesh! That’s better!”
Continuing to the van, I began to feel a sense of freedom unlike anything I’d experienced with Campbell thus far.
I smiled at the memory, as I continued to fold clothes from the dryer. It was nice to have memories all my own like that.
) Setting Boundaries…
Suddenly the kitchen gate fell to the ground with a crash!
The large bell attached ringing harshly and slamming me rudely back into the present day!
Campbell stomped over it as if it weren’t there and headed for the trash. I stopped what I was doing and went to the front door. I reached up to the hook on the wall beside the door and quietly took down his leash and turning noiselessly went back down the hall. Just as Campbell was trying to exit the kitchen door, licking his lips as if he’d just enjoyed a rather awesome Thanksgiving feast. I reached out and connected the leash to his collar. I pulled him round to face the kitchen door, slamming the gate loudly against the door frame. Giving Campbell a very firm leash correction with a sharp “Pfui!” snapping the leash as I did so. I was tired of this behavior! And had resolved to put an end to it. I’d almost broken him from going into the bathroom and saw no reason the kitchen intrusions couldn’t be stopped as well, or at the very least reduced. Then I turned him physically round with my leg and arm. I had both hands occupied holding the leash, thus keeping him completely under my control.
I herded him toward his crate with a gentle slap to his rump and a firm, “To your crate!” Then, I let him go.
He went with no hesitation. Some of you reading may believe that type of correction was too harsh. Please, before you get to upset, remember if a guide dog won’t mind in the house when things are relaxed, calm, and fun, he won’t mind on the street when traffic is all around.
Campbell was indeed like me. He knew when he was in trouble, and like me, if not allowed to get too far out of hand, could be brought back in line easily enough.
I knew that by the time he took a short nap in his crate, and I showered and dressed, we’d be more than ready to see one another, and glad to work happily with no problems. That was simply the way of it for our team. Our ability to keep learning these things, learning and re-enforcing boundaries, and reminding each other when we stepped out of them was a huge part of our success.
I’d learned to listen to Campbell, and he to me. The clear and unmistakable communication we established with one another over the years became extremely important and served us well each day we were together. It amazed me as I went through my new life with Campbell how many of my everyday problems resolved themselves if I took the same approach with them as I did with him.
I’d not, however, learned this part of handling quite in this way until I’d truly found myself on my own. I knelt in front of the door to his crate, reached in and softly smoothed the beautiful thick fur on his head and neck. “Now, mommy loves you. Naughty dog’s gone, and my sweet Campbell Bug is back. No more trash surfing.
Huh?” I kissed him and he gave me his best slimies in return.
I Stood shutting the door and latching it as I said, “My good boy, take a nap and we’ll see what we do next.” I never wanted the crate associated with bad, so when working with my dogs the correction comes then the quiet gentle loving time out.
) Hidden Feelings…
As I turned to walk away, I was unaware that I was chewing my lip, which was chapped from the wind. It started to bleed, and this brought forth yet another jarring flash of a memory from training…
I was standing in front of an ATM with Campbell at my side harness in my hand. In the other I was holding the Clicker and clipped to me was a small treat bag. Drew was standing to my right, and we were practicing having Campbell target the ATM.
It was the most miserable day of training yet. The weather had turned unusually hot and humid; I had a pounding headache and low grade fever which I’d chosen to keep from Drew and was not feeling up to snuff at all. Drew too was suffering. He had allergies, they were acting up that day, so, when I again started for the treat bag before Campbell targeted, and, after having told me repeatedly not to do that. His patience had given out. He’d reached out and firmly tapped the back of the offending hand with each word saying, “No! Don’t! Do! That!” I suddenly had felt 2 inches high and maybe not that many years old, and due to the frustration of not feeling well and not being coordinated with the process of knowing just when to click and when to treat, had nearly started to cry. Just when I’d thought that day couldn’t get any worse, as I’d clinched my teeth together and swallowed down my emotion, I’d bitten my lip and made it bleed. It was a rough afternoon for sure.
The feeling had passed as quickly as it had come, as well as Drew’s Gruffness,
Because he’d followed his reprimand with soothing and gentle praise when I followed his instructions correctly, the desired effect of that lesson hadn’t been lost on me. In fact, because of the correct balance it had been forever etched in my mind.
It had been the last time I’d reached for that damn treat bag early.
I stood head lowered struggling for control as the memory of that day faded.
For just a moment I had been transported back in time. I could hear the click of the clicker, feel the hot humid wind whipping round me, and even could feel the tap of Drew’s fingers on the back of my hand. It was all clear as the day it took place, right down to the ache of being frustrated to tears in the back of my throat, and the taste of my own blood in my mouth.
I heard his voice just as it had been that day. First, strong, low, and gruff in my ear. Then soft, gentle, and soothing. I shivered deep within at the reality of it. Then, just as it had come it was gone.
For just a moment I was gripped with a loneliness, and longing I couldn’t quite put a name to, a bottomless ache, and then that too was gone.
As I gathered my clothes, and made my way again toward the shower,
I heard the distant pattering of the rain and whine of the wind as the chimes once again seemed to ring in agreement with my thoughts. At that moment in time, although grieving the loss of a dear friend, I felt good about how far I’d really come. Seemed to me that once I’d gotten truly on with the business of trying to live my own life with Campbell without relying incorrectly on others, I was doing a decent job.
Yes, from time to time I slipped dangerously backward toward the slippery dark and shadowy times of sickness in my life, but I hoped others would start to see a bit of difference in me.
That’s the longing I couldn’t quite put a name to. The longing to know for sure. Until then…?
Hope, it seemed was all I had. It would for now simply have to be enough.
I slipped into the comfort of the shower, and as the warmth of the water began to do it’s magik on my aching shoulder, I remembered the end of last week, the Friday that almost wasn’t, until I’d realized, there had been Prosperity in the Face of the Winter Solstice.
For me, the Solstice used to mean nothing more than a sad, dark time. Since then, I have learned that I was wrong, and that in fact, once the Solstice comes and goes, the days begin to lengthen, and each day that passes brings us closer to spring and a time of much renewal and prosperity. So, I always try to think that each sunrise is leading me toward yet another day of growth and rejuvenation. This may seem strange to some, I’m sure, but as you read onward, you’ll see the reason for my mentioning this at all. Whether you are a believer in any god or goddess or in none matters not, because nature will show That the passing of the Winter Solstice leads us toward spring, and a new awakening.
I’d awakened that Friday morning, Feeling excited and well rested. I’d had a plan of action for that last day of the work week and wanted to get going ASAP. That was not to be. First off, even though I felt I had readied everything for the morning, I somehow kept finding that I’d forgotten to lay out many small items, and I had to keep stopping to search for them one at a time. Once I was finally ready, I realized I’d missed my 8:30 bus and so was going to be an hour late. I called in and settled down to read a chapter or two of a book I was trying to finish and waited for the hour to pass, until I could catch the next bus. I began to get totally involved in the story. Soon the hour had passed. I’d let time slip away, and I was again rushing to get out the door.
Campbell and I made it to the bus stop on time. Although we were cutting it close, it was also cool, because Campbell got to show his stuff while executing a neat, quick right turn to lead us straight to the corner and the steps of the bus as it pulled up to the stop. When we were settled, the driver, whom I’ve known for years and who is a good friend of mine, complimented us on a job “very well done.”
Once I finally made it to work, things got off to a slow start, and I seemed to run into obstacles everywhere I went. Soon, I was disturbed to realize that three hours had passed, yet I’d accomplished extraordinarily little. I seemed to be having communication troubles with a few people, both in and out of the office, so, after a particularly disturbing conversation with a board member, during which it became obvious Lynn hadn’t gotten clearance for me to work on the part of fundraising I’d been doing for an upcoming event, I decided to call it an early day. As I boarded the bus to go home, I was feeling rather low and very frustrated with work. I was also at my wits end with Lynn and the way he’d hung me out to dry letting me walk into such a trap with the board. Earlier in the week, he’d tasked me with getting donations from Food City and other grocery stores for the food which would be used during the pancake fundraiser we were having alongside my book sale for The Seeing Eye. I’d set things up, so there would be no mistake where funds were going or what they’d be used for, the volunteers were excited to help and up until I’d started asking questions of the board president things had been going well. She’d not had a clue I was working on things, and having feelers out herself felt as though I were undermining the board’s efforts. I’d tried to explain, nothing was further than the truth, but she was upset and there had been no discussing it with her. Before we’d hung up, I had managed to convince her to let me follow through with what I’d had going simply to save face and not look as if one hand didn’t know what the other was doing. I had no idea why Lynn had done this but as soon as visions of throttling him passed, I was determined to find out.
I had almost given up on the entire day when we arrived at the bus station where passengers transfer from one bus to another if necessary. I had an idea. Sometime back, one of the staff members at the station had expressed an interest in my newly released book.
I’d just received copies of it in the mail, to sell at our upcoming fundraiser. So, I dialed from my cell into the station and talked with the staff member. I told her I had copies of my book with me for sale and asked if she’d like one. She came right out and bought a copy, and on top of that, she asked me to sign it. This caught me unprepared, and I made a firm mental note to find and practice using my signature guide immediately.
I tried to do the best I could. With what I am sure was very messy print, I signed “Patty and Campbell. “Whether the result was messy or not, she was delighted. Then she said happily, “You know this is going to cost you, right?” I laughed, already knowing the answer, and asked, “What is your price?” She answered with a smile in her voice, “A pet!” I immediately said OK, as Campbell had not moved until I released him from rest. Even then, he didn’t stand, but only belly crept forward enough to have his head rubbed and his ears scratched. He was so beautifully behaved, only lying there, wagging happily as she loved on him, that a couple of people remarked about his “Amazing Behavior.”
A moment later, Charley, another driver who turned into a great friend, came along, and said, “I hear you’ve been out here selling books!” I smiled and said, “I have, and I have some more with me.” He laughed. “I knew you would. I’ll take two.” I happily gave him two books, and he handed me a twenty-dollar bill. I tucked it away for safekeeping and thanked him. Soon he was gone, my driver was back, and Campbell and I were on our way home. I was thrilled. I’d sold all three copies of my book all at once, and I couldn’t wait to get home to see if my other shipment had arrived. Once at home and settled, I was thrilled to see that it had indeed come.
After a bit of a break, Campbell and I headed out again. I decided I was going to take my money and get dinner at the Food City Deli and have a word with their manager about an event Campbell and I were currently involved with. I thought he might be able to help me with the Pancake Breakfast and Book Sale Fundraiser. I was hopeful of talking him into some food or drink donations. Just as I was getting ready to leave the house, I got a call from my friend and volunteer Gabe. He let me know he’d be by later to pick up a book, as well as tickets for the Pancake Breakfast portion of the fundraiser. This meant I’d sold forty dollars’ worth of books thus far.
I happily set the book aside for him and continued my way, calling a cheerful “Goodbye!” to my friend Old Man Bob, who had stopped by to hang out and use the large space on my dining room table to do some paperwork. As I slipped through the door, I called back over my shoulder, “I’ll be back in about an hour!” He called back, “Good luck. I’ll lock up when I leave.”
Campbell and I started off. I laughed as he took a huge snort of the fresh, cool air and began to wag his tail happily. Once again, he worked beautifully, guiding me safely across the two streets to the stop. When we got there, I praised and praised him. The bus pulled up a moment later, and we boarded with no trouble.
As I settled into our usual place, I realized that I’d walked out and left my wallet on the table. I couldn’t believe it. Well, I thought, I’ve got a backpack filled with books. I’ll sell some and feed myself. I argued with myself that the money from the sale of the books was to be for the fundraiser, but I also knew I was to pay myself something and that I had to eat. So off we went. Soon I’d sold two books to the driver I was riding with. We were to change buses at Walmart. While waiting in between buses, I met a man who couldn’t buy a book; however, he took a flyer about my event He promised to put it up at his church. I thanked him and continued on my way.
When the bus pulled up and the door opened, I was delighted to see that the driver was Charley. We greeted one another happily, and as we rode round picking people up, I chatted with folks about my book. Before I’d gotten to my stop, I’d sold another copy. I was excited, to say the least. I was already up to seventy dollars in my money-making and was thrilled. As Campbell and I got off the bus, folks sang out their cheerful holiday wishes and goodbyes. We waved happily to all and started out across the parking lot to the store.
Campbell carefully guided me through the traffic, and for a change, everyone followed the correct traffic routines. We only got one traffic check, and it was not bad. As we came onto the sidewalk, the Salvation Army Bell Ringer stationed outside the door of the store called out, “Hello, pretty puppy!” I said gently but firmly, “Sir, don’t speak to him; he’s working.” I added as I passed, “Happy Holiday!” in a cheerful, upbeat voice, and made a note to drop some money in the kettle when I came back through the doorway.
Finally, we were in the store and weaving our way through the crowd. Campbell wagged happily along, and on this day, we made not one mistake while we made our way to the Service Desk. When I found we’d arrived all on our own and with no mistakes, I was so proud that I had a praise party for my pup right there on the floor while we waited for a shopping assistant.
Soon, with the help of a very polite young man, I had my fried chicken dinner, as well as a couple of other items I needed. I was ready to go back out, so Campbell and I could make our escape. I was disappointed to see that the bell ringer was gone when Campbell and I came back through. I had intended to donate a bit of money and let the ringer take a moment and have the chance to meet Campbell correctly.
While we waited at the stop for the bus, we chatted with a fellow bus rider. I explained about the Seeing Eye after the man began asking questions.
Finally, we boarded again, and shortly after, were back at our stop. As we left the bus, we called out happy holiday and great weekend wishes to all. I had money and food, and the day had turned out very well.
Campbell shot forward happily enough when I gave him the command after stepping off the bus, and soon we were turning into our driveway. It had been a fantastic day, and the rough events of the morning seemed distant and unimportant.
I spent a few minutes chatting with some friends who had been waiting for me at the house, and they too bought a book. This brought my take for the day to eighty dollars. I was totally thrilled.
As I put my money and leftover books away, I wished that I could go into writing full time. It had been such fun selling those books in person and making happy conversation with folks—people who were not only buying my book, but who would read it and talk to others about it and about the fact that they’d met Campbell and me. Knowing that they had an idea of the reality of us and what we are like pleased me. I smiled to myself as I finished straightening out my things and thought, one day I’m going to do just that: be a professional writer and have this fun forever. That’s the ticket for sure. I just know it.
As I enjoyed my dinner, I felt that I’d done some great work and had really earned my money. I hadn’t felt like that in quite a while, no matter what I was doing.
Later in the evening, as I was soaking in a tub of hot water in a fragrant, steam- filled bathroom, I understood the way nature worked; I was feeling that same sense of hope and renewal that I knew everything, and everyone must feel. I knew that soon the cold, dark days of winter would be over, and the prosperity of spring would be in full bloom. Heck! I was already receiving some of that just by knowing it was so.
December 31, 2014
A Bustling Narrow Pathway…
As we came into the holiday season things became crazy for Campbell and me. Work was busy with planning the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast, and then there was my personal fundraiser, Campbell’s Cause to help us get books to sell at the upcoming Top Dog convention we were to attend at the end of January.
On top of those things, there was the fantastic event of my nephew and niece-in-law moving into our home with their two girls. I was more than thrilled. I felt no apprehension about their being here, and when people asked me how Campbell and I would deal with having others in the house again after living so long with just the two of us and the cats my answer was always the same. “I cannot wait.” I had been enjoying getting reconnected with my nephew Aaron since his return to Kingsport, and now I would get to know the rest of his family. It would be fine. I was sure of it. Had I known then what I learned about them later, I’d have locked my doors and turned them away.
Were there signs? Certainly. However, as with Donnie for the majority of our life together, I loved Aaron, knew he and his family were adjusting to one another, at the same time Arron was learning to be a free man. So, I hoped for the best and welcomed them with open arms.
) A Holiday Extravaganza of Errors…
…Now it was New Year’s Eve Day morning, and we were on our way out the door to run to Food City, and Burger King to pick up donated items for the breakfast, and then go on to the office to prepare for everyone’s arrival.
As usual the plans I’d laid out were not to be.
At least not as I’d thought. Campbell and I started up the walk together and I felt awesome. I had on a new outfit of clothes given to me as a gift by one of my volunteers, and a nice scarf and earmuff set my sister had given me and something about having been able to dress up a bit had really helped me feel good about myself. That along with the way I had figured out how to use the mass transit to get this done had really helped to boost my confidence and I was ready to rock! Or? So I thought… As we crossed the second street, and I urged Campbell forward past our stop the bust we normally rode came by. The driver stopped and asked me if I wanted him or bus 3. I told him I was going on up and to radio the driver that I’d be there in a minute. He did and I started off again with Campbell trotting happily along beside me wagging his tail and scenting the crisp fresh air of winter.
All was fine, but suddenly things went wrong. Somehow as I had started off again, I lost count of how many streets I’d crossed. So, when I got to where I thought I was supposed to be I’d walked further than I thought. I crossed a street when I should’ve turned and that led me astray. By the time I realized where we were, I was further than I should’ve been. I turned round and was very sure I’d missed Dave and bus 3. I reached for my cell and dialed from memory the KATS office. When I got the dispatcher on, I told him what had happened and that I had turned around and to please have Dave and the other drivers in that area watch for me. As I continued down the street, I realized by the direction of the traffic flow, that I had made a diagonal street crossing and had ended up on the wrong side. I wanted to get where I needed to be but just was not sure how anymore. I heard a garbage truck approaching and I decided that Campbell and I had had enough. I stepped to the edge of the street and as the truck came rumbling up I began jumping up and down to flag down the driver and after a lot of back-and-forth communication between the two of us and some instruction as to how he could best help from me, as well as trial and error we made a plan of action that worked, and Campbell and I began to follow him back down the street. There was no sidewalk there and Campbell and I were suddenly doing country work we’d not done since training and to be quite honest we sucked at it. The driver had to stop his truck several times and direct me, even to the point of having to get out and assist me twice. I was upset and embarrassed to tears, but he remained calm and extremely helpful, at one point he briefly took my hand and steadied me saying, “You’re OK sweetheart. Just make him follow this road right at the edge. He described a bit better the lay out and this helped us get a better idea of what we needed to do.
Finally, we caught up to Dave and bus 3, and climbed aboard. To say we were glad to be on the bus would be a gross understatement. Campbell and I made our way quickly to our seat and as I sat down, Campbell flopped on to the floor with a thump, and a sigh.
The bus began to move, and I leaned back and raised my hands to my face. Leaning against them I sighed. My head was roaring with confusion. “You alright?” Dave asked. “Ask me again in ten minutes, ok?” He laughed a bit, but there was no humor in it. “I’m ok, Yankee Dave. Dave was one of the drivers I considered my friend. He’d read my first book, and was originally from somewhere up north, so that seemed to help him help me. I was very appreciative of it and was incredibly careful not to make any of my previous mistakes.
No worries.” I said shakily, and he asked, “What the heck happened back there? The driver of bus five radioed me and said you were on your way up to the corner of Severe and Lamont, but I never saw you? “I said, I don’t know yet what happened.” I was starting to feel a bit unglued, and he must’ve noticed it. He said, “Maybe you shouldn’t worry about it right now.” “I must worry about it. I must know how it happened so I can try and keep it from happening again!”
As those words echoed and swirled for a moment in my head, Dave said,
“Well, I found you, and you’re ok. By the way where are you going?” I laughed nervously, and then took a breath, pushed those echoing swirling words firmly out of my mind, and asked with some alarm, “What time is it?” He told me it was a bit after eight and I began to try to figure out how to make what I needed to happen, happen. I told him of the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast being held this morning at the center, and that I was in charge of it. I relayed to him about my plans and how proud I’d been of figuring it all out and of how very much I wanted it to succeed. “We will make it happen.” Dave reassured me, and soon we were pulling up to Food City. He wished me well as we left the bus, and I said with a bit more cheer, “We’ll be back shortly, I hope?” Dave laughed, “I’ll look for you on the next run. We’ll transfer you over and get you on your way.” After waving a final good-bye Campbell and I walked from the bus in the parking lot into the store with no problem.
When we reached the service desk, I was pleased to see that Campbell had not made one mistake. I praised him well, and then said, “Down.” He lay down with no complaint and I patted his head saying, “You’re a very obedient dog. I have not one idea what I’d do without you.” I turned my attention to the girl at the counter and was pleased to see that my breakfast sandwiches I’d ordered from the deli were there, and the gift card they’d donated to pay for it as well. I sent one of the staff standing there for a couple of bottles of soda and soon had it all paid for, a new value card, and Campbell and I were on our way. Because we’d worked so hard and had some upset earlier, I let Campbell rest and allowed the assistant to lead me from the store. Once outside, I assured him I was ok, and that the driver would signal me when he returned. When he pulled up there were several of us standing there and we walked out together. Campbell worked flawlessly and I was pleased to see that although I would be a few minutes late, rather than early as I’d originally hoped, I would make it. Then I remembered the donation at Burger King. I was furious with myself. I’d picked that very darn location so I could get them both at the same time. The Burger King was just across the way from the grocery. “How darn stupid am I?” I asked no one in particular. “What’s wrong?” Dave asked, “I forgot to pick up my donations at Burger King!” I exclaimed. He said nothing, and I knew there was nothing to do about it. I could not go back. I called my supervisor Lynn and explained that I had the sandwiches and drinks and could he please get ice and the donation from Burger King. I told him nothing of the trouble I’d had. I decided that story could be told and probably retold at the breakfast if that was, I ever made it there.
) Welcome Relief.
Finally, we were at the station and transferred back to our regular bus five route and headed toward work. As I sat thinking I began to piece the morning’s events back together. I was starting to get a vague idea of what may have gone wrong and had resolved to try and figure it all out soon. I didn’t want this to happen again.
When we pulled up to our stop I said, “Thanks for all your help today. You drivers are fantastic.” “We try. You have a fantastic day now, ok?” I smiled as I left the bus with King Campbell wagging happily by my side. Through it all he’d kept his calm, happy self-focused on working and helping me. When we’d begun to get the hang of what the driver of that garbage truck had needed us to do to get us to where we’d needed to be, he’d wagged till I’d thought his body would break in half. He’d been wagging from his waste back. I was glad to see that to Campbell work was work, and that he loved it whether we knew where the hell we were going or no. He was just awesome, and as we made our way inside and to the elevator, I was prouder to have him than ever.
When the elevator stopped on our floor and the doors opened, Campbell shot forward excitedly with me jogging to keep up. “Yea Campbell!” I cheered softly and we went quick as lightning to the door. As we entered the warmth of the office, and everyone’s happy greetings surrounded us, it made the edges of the horror that morning begin to fade. Soon we were telling our tail and setting up the remaining things. After a quick check in the phone room and chat with those volunteers working and hanging out in there Campbell and I settled into our places for a few minutes. Campbell was more than happy in his big fluffy bed, and I was glad enough to simply stand and set up my computer. It helped get some normal routine back to what had been a very confusing morning. After spending a few more minutes in the phone room chatting with the volunteer on the desk we made our way into the conference room where everyone was finally gathered. It was nice to sit down and some of the volunteers who weren’t in the phone room when I had told our story asked me what had happened. Laughingly, I retold the story, and, as I finished, I said “Well, I won’t have any trouble having my column Campbell’s Calamities for this week. A few asked me about that, and soon we were deep in conversation about books, movies, writing, acting, and having a fantastic visit.
All too soon, breakfast was over, and it was time to get to the work of the day.
Once we’d helped to set the conference room back to right and made certain all was back in place in the break room, it was time to schedule shifts, and tie up loose ends on the Pancake Breakfast, and Book sale fundraiser, happening at the end of the month.
Soon the day was ending, and Campbell and I were off to go and cash my paycheck and head to the house. I was looking forward to a little R&R with my friends and family and a New Year’s Eve celebration. Little did I know that our calamities were far from over.
) Thoughts and Misguided Suggestions…
When we got to the station the driver of bus five asked Dave to assist me on his bus. Dave laughingly said, “Haven’t I done enough today?” The driver of bus five and I both said “NO!” We all laughed, and Campbell and I ran quick like down the ramp and dropping the harness handle I reached and took Dave’s arm. I was tired, the bus station parking lot was noisy, and I was happy to heal my dog and walk for a while with someone else.
“Now, listen you’re gonna have to behave yourself for a while, ok? I’m getten too old for all this work.” Dave teased as he settled us on the bus. He started down the ramp and turning back he asked, “How was your breakfast?” “It went well. Thanks for helping me make that happen. At least no one can say I don’t get my job done cause I don’t have a car.”
“I have no idea who would be that dumb but if someone wants to try and say that you just send’em to Yankee Dave.” He had a smile in his voice as he walked away.
I sighed, and then had to laugh as I thought of what it might be like to stand hidden in a corner somewhere and listen to that Yankee give those on Contact Concern’s board of directors a piece of his mind concerning whether or not I could do my job effectively considering my “circumstances.”
I’d recently had a conversation with my supervisor concerning my finding a full-time assistant for myself, and when I’d given him a couple of names I was considering, he’d said no to both. When I’d asked why he’d said, “It is the opinion of some on the board that the assistant of the volunteer coordinator have a car, and there has also been some question of your lack of transportation during night and weekend events.” Still to the day of this writing that makes me seethe with anger. I had never failed to do my job due to my “Lack of transportation” OK I’d forgotten part of the donated items earlier in the morning, but did people who drove never forget things? If, I’d truly been paying attention to what was being said and what was happening around me I’d have known it would only be a matter of time before my troubles at Contact Concern would leave me with no choice but to walk away from a job I’d dedicated my life to.
) Lost, and Found…
After the drivers had taken their break, and everyone had transferred to their needed buses, we were off again. When we finally reached Food City, I was a bit more relaxed. We entered the store with no trouble but about halfway to the service desk someone spoke directly to Campbell. That was the only drawback to our becoming well known about town. People forget. They don’t mean to distract us. I don’t get really upset and angry about it, and I am not rude to people unless I must be. I don’t feel people are malicious about it and I don’t have lots of trouble with it, but on this day, someone’s having spoken to him distracted him and even though I brought him quickly back in to focus on me the damage was done. We’d passed the desk and I’d not noticed it because there had been no one there. Once I realized we’d done so I turned us around. Still not able to pick up an audio clue as to exactly where the desk was from where I was, I decided that to wander round in circles would only serve to make Campbell more frustrated and confused, and me upset again. I was feeling just a tad frustrated with the entire situation when one of the staff walked up. “Hi Patty, do you need some help?” I sighed with relief. “Yeah, someone talked to Campbell, and he decided to go labben.” We laughed at that, and it cut the tension. I realized Campbell had had an exhausting day too and so I decided we’d just get over it and move on.
Back at the desk we took care of cashing my paycheck and then made our way back outside to wait for the bus. While there we ran in to the man we’d talked to back before Christmas while waiting at the stop and when he told me the bus was coming, I assumed it was already in the parking lot and started forward. Campbell, not yet having seen the bus, didn’t know what I wanted from him, and that along with yet another person talking to him once again he became distracted, and again we were off course. Now I was aggravated to say the least. I turned round, listening for the sound of the bus. I had to stop and think for a moment about which bus Dave was driving because some were gas powered and some were Diesel, and this made their motors sound different. I stood listening; I wanted to hear either the bus or sounds from the store. I suddenly couldn’t determine one sound from another. There was a lot of traffic and I felt I was facing the wrong way.
Just then a man getting out of a nearby car asked, “Miss, do you need some help?” I sighed; this was getting old to say the least.
“Yes sir, please? I am trying to catch the bus.” The man quickly turned round and waved at Dave who was driving up as he did so. “Well, that was good timing.” Dave said in an upbeat voice, but I could hear worry just underneath. It was absolutely not like me and Campbell to be so off track, and a couple of times in one day had everyone including me wondering what the hell was going on. As we got on, I thanked yet another perfect stranger for helping me out and sighing dejectedly I sat myself and Campbell back into our regular place, buckled my seat belt and closed my eyes.
“OK Redneck, I’m getting tired of running round looking for you all day.” Dave teased. I sighed, “Sorry dude, I…” I trailed off. How could I explain how I felt? I was just tired out, and for whatever reason felt disoriented. Nothing seemed right. “I’m going home and drink till I pass out.” I said aggravatedly. He chuckled to himself and then in a more serious tone, “Make sure you eat a little bit first.” I smiled, “It’s ok Dave, I doubt my going home and getting totally sloshed tonight. Then again, I don’t know. It’s been one hell of a day.” “Just be careful and don’t do too much.
When we reached our stop, I thanked Dave again as Campbell and I stepped off. “Thanks dude, I won’t bother you again till the next time.” He laughed, “It’s all good, ok?” I gave a thumbs up and waved, then we were off. We walked easily with one another down to the first street corner. Things seemed clearer to me now and I was fairly sure I knew what had gone wrong during the morning trip to the bus stop that wasn’t.
I resolved that before the weekend was over, I’d rework the whole thing from beginning to end and make damn sure that I was able to do it with no problem. For now, I simply wanted to take us home, and inside for a while. I was long overdue for some food, and that drink I wanted earlier was starting to look better and better than ever.
) Homecoming at sundown…
As we crossed Garden Drive and headed for home, I felt proud of one thing, troubled or not our day had been successful. We had gotten to work, our breakfast had been enjoyed by all who had attended, and we were back home safe and sound.
Later, as the drinks and food from the evening began to do their magik I began to totally relax and drifted in the comfort of my family and memories for a while, letting the cares of the day slip into the past.
Later in January a blood test would reveal that my medication levels needed adjusting and was the cause of my confusion when traveling.
To Be Continued
About Patty L. Fletcher
Patty Fletcher is a single mother with a beautiful daughter, of whom she is enormously proud. She has a great son-in-law and six beautiful grandchildren. From April 2011 through September 2020, she owned and handled a black Labrador from The Seeing Eye® named King Campbell Lee Fletcher A.K.A. Bubba. Sadly, after a long battle with illness on September 24, 2020, King Campbell went to the Rainbow Bridge where all is peace and love. In July 2021, she returned to The Seeing Eye® and was paired with a Black Labrador Golden Retriever cross named Blue.
Patty was born one and a half months premature. Her blindness was caused by her being given too much oxygen in the incubator. She was partially sighted until 1991, at which time she lost her sight due to an infection after cataract surgery and high eye pressure. She used a cane for 31 years before making the change to a guide dog.
WHERE SHE LIVES AND WORKS…
Currently, Patty lives and works in Kingsport, Tenn.
She’s the creator and owner of Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing (Author, Blogger, Business Assist), The Writer’s Grapevine Online Magazine and the creator and host of the Talk to Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing Podcast.
Patty writes with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disabled from the non-disabled.
Patty’s hobbies include reading, music, and attending book clubs via Zoom.
Some of her favorite types of tunes are classic rock, rhythm and blues, and classic country.
Patty enjoys fantasy, science fiction, and books about the supernatural. She loves books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Norah Roberts, and many more. Some favorite books include Norah Roberts’ Hide Away, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.
Patty describes herself as a spiritual Walker. She says she knows both Mother Goddess and Father God and embraces all they have to offer.