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A mild-mannered, blundering, child-faced oaf would be an excellent description of me for the bulletins, especially if I have just emerged from the Sea- (I suffer Post-Briny-Bliss Syndrome and tend to resent the return to terrestrial life, and am more blundering than usual). I have never really considered myself much of a threat, however- perhaps a bit of an imp or devilish sprite, but still, not much for ravaging society. A wild evening for me would be a jaunt downtown snapping photos, going home to edit to the music of Duke Ellington, and finishing off with some grand reading- perhaps a field-guide about rocks, which, to me, might as well be poetry. So one might dub me “nerdy” or “square”, “boring” and so on, based on this information, but “nefarious and picaresque criminal”- not exactly the descriptive that would spring to mind if I met myself stumbling on some fissured corner somewhere, puffing on an un-fused empty pipe, leering out from beneath the brim of my lopsided, checkered old-man-hat. Well…perhaps “possible bedlamite” might come to mind.

Such is my riotous life. And nothing tempts me away from it. One time a rather fine-looking, sapphire-eyed bloke named Patrick decided I was a peculiarity (he used to live across the street) and thought he might try a bit of corrupting. I happen to be very difficult to corrupt. I am no Dorian Gray. He was doing his best as Old Harry, nonetheless. He proffered me a “boy toy” and asked if I might like some Mary Jane. I declined as I had an appointment with some sharks and was eager to get out there to enjoy a grand swim with them. I departed and did just that. Who wouldn’t? Nothing is more thrilling and euphoric than swimming and spending time with sharks.

Now, that does not mean I live an uneventful life; quite the contrary. It seems Adventure likes to hound and follow me around, very much like a slightly aggravating little sibling (I know all about aggravating little siblings, as I am one, but we won’t go into that). I find myself quite often all tangled up in some kind of misadventure or other. These mishaps occur especially when I am avidly keen on some “grand idea”- like owl-hunting, for instance (not to shoot, well not to fire with projectiles, but to gawk at).

I will elaborate with a story.

Sir and I drove up to Kentucky to pick up a friend in mid-autumn. We had known this chap for two years, but we had never actually met before (another story, another time). The name of this friend is Thome. As soon as we arrived that breathless, October evening, sky blazing with a gelid, ashen moon, I decided to ask Thome if he had spotted any owls recently. He lived in Kentucky hinterlands. There were frilling fields with scores of mice, enfringed with forest, with quite a few excellent trees for owls to hoot about in.

“I’ve never seen any owls, ever,” he said emphatically, in his denim Tweety Bird shirt.

“What complete bosh! This place is perfect for them, must be brimming with owls! I think I heard one hoot just now. Come!” I leaped up, “We are going to go owl-hunting!” and I vapourised out the door, completely possessed with the idea. Thome followed.

Now, Thome was not used to this kind of thing. He did not venture out much, back then, and especially not during nocturnal hours. So, there he was, being dragged into the depths of the Unknown. And there I was, this nutter from Florida in a skull-cap, yammering on about owls, and leading him further and further away from the safety of his abode. As we trotted along, the incandescent glow of that home soon dissipating nto the darkness behind us, I suppose he might have sensed trouble coming. I was oblivous as my eyes penetrated the night in their pursuit of wide-eyed, feathered creatures.

I spotted a wee church all alone (Thome started to tell me all about it) and a wee cemetery, glowing in the moonlight. Well, we HAD to go there. Suddenly, lights are beaming, drug-drop ensues right in front of us, and tires squeal madly away. Luckily, the dealer in the van decided not to chase after us as we began to depart (I had simply said to Thome, “RUN drug-drop, don’t want to be shot!”) So we skipped quickly away. Let us say Thome was a little shocked. Miami had just arrived in rural Kentucky and ruffled all the bluegrass.

After that little incident had passed behind us, I discovered a remote path. I love to walk on all kinds of paths, especially remote ones (a bit of foreshadowing with the walking bit, here, you will see), and this one was lined with trees, absolutely perfect for owls to loiter about in for some excellent hooting practice. So we meandered along, I blathering away about this and that, eyes gaping up at the bony branches, scanning for owl silhouettes. Then some dogs began to bay, growl, and roar violently, chains rattling. The night sounded as if it was shattering with the din. My first reaction was to dart away, again. So, we turned around and began to flee. We had unwittingly passed a slumbering house; well, it WAS slumbering until we oozed by. We were still gamboling along when headlights appeared behind us. I glanced back. Yes…we were being pursued by a rogue pick-up truck, rumbling along on the rugged and uneven dirt road. It veered and bounced along like some sort of monster with beaming eyes penetrating the darkness- redolent of a Stephen King novel, perhaps. Oh dear. We ran faster.

Let us say Thome was a bit nervous. I leaped into the tall, suspiring grasses for a moment, and in huddle-fashion explained our options to Thome, “We could run off into the copse and hide, or talk with this gentleman.”

Thome seemed fond of the first idea.

“Ah, but Thome. Think about it. The poor chap will be wondering who it was stomping about outside, what were they up to, are they going to come back? Let us not worry him!”

I was already out of the grasses before he could replay- the truck pulled up and I said cheerily, but apologetically, “Oh hullo! Good evening, so sorry about that!”

The bloke instantly melted.

We got to chatting. It turned out the man even knew Thome. Thome was oblivious and had no idea who the chap was. We ended up parting with bowls of guffaws and smiles all the way around.

When the truck had dissipated, I grinned at Thome, but I could not know if he could see that through the inky darkness. I think I went on about the nigth sky and drug-addiction on our return to his home.

P.S. Do you know how many owls we spotted? Zero…but I did find a fox to show Thome the next day, so that was something.

So, despite my mild-mannered style, it seems that adventure covets me. I have reels of such stories as the one just relayed. I get into all kinds of scrapes indeed, and usually get out of them with a bit of bumbling charm- Kindness and Compassion to greet any situation. But sometimes, I do falter…

On to the next story, to illustrate one of the few times my attitude of kindness and compassion took a bit of a spill, the story of my near arrest.

Last night, I thought the bumbling charm was, for the first time, going to fail me, and I was going to be hauled off to the hoosegow. At last, in the pen where I belonged, perhaps. It is not that I go about breaking laws. I just go on these walks, or go on these hunts, and that is when trouble occurs.

Well, last evening was one of those inspiring, cool nights in Florida that makes one want to walk about more than ever. It was glorious out. I had my walking-companion again, yes, Thome. This was a wiser, older Thome that was now with me, and much more accustomed to “things happening” when I was around. Still, he was a little unsteady at some points later that evening.

So, after we both agreed we absolutely must go on a peaceful jaunt in the neighbourhood down the way, we began to tottle on our way. We were debating the best route to get there when a cruiser suddenly pulled up. Now, I am a peaceful person, as I have explained. I am always telling Thome in a calm and melodious voice, “Kindness and Compassion, matie,” but I do have slips (other than the physical kind). I am terribly ashamed to say I managed to “lose my cool”, as the phrase goes, and sputtered to the great firmament of lambent stars above, “We cannot go for a walk?!” It took one second. Then, stricken by my loss of control, I began to lecture myself internally. Oh dear, I was feeling…what had I done…I did not even recall what I had said until Thome reiterated to me, later.

Well, tremendous damage had been done. You would think that minor slip forgivable, but apparently not. With an, “Oh now I HAVE to make this OFFICIAL!” roaring out as a greeting, the police officer, that had been safely nestled in the dark depths of the vehicle, plunged from its contents, pierced the night, jerked open the backseat door in front of me, and then whirled right into my face. In hindsight, I believe he wanted me to balk, tremble, and crumble backwards. I am Irish, however, and we Irish tend not to balk and crumble. It is just not in our nature. I might have tried to do so, had it occurred to me…

He was clearly upset. His face was contorted with anger, big grey eyes bulging in my face. He had rather tan, olive skin, I noted, looking to be around forty. He did not seem a very tall chap, either. Just a few more inches, and I felt like I could tower right over him.

Well, I began to apologise, “Oh dear, dreadfully sorry, I meant no harm, just a flare of attitude, terrible of me, so sorry, I’m such a cad, such a dingy…” and so on, but he barely let me get “sorry” out when he went smashing into an interrogation.

“What country are you from?!” he demanded to know.

“Here…” I replied.

“No WHERE are you from?!”

“Oh, the Midwest originally,” I tried to smile, but he instantly lambasted with a return, “Gonna have to be more specific than that! We’re going to find out ALL ABOUT yeew tonight.”

I assumed as such, you can look all that up on a computer easily. I did not say that, mind you. I just said, “Right, Illinois”.

He weighed this. He guessed perhaps Illinoisans might talk the way I do. They don’t, though. I do not sound nasally, and I also never say the dreaded, elongated, “yaaaa knooooow” and “thaaat’s CRAYzeeee”, right through the nose that is so redolent of the particular town I happened to live in during my stretch up there. I think I sound a bit like Leslie Howard, I suppose, intermingled with a slight Irish brogue here and there, and a touch of Boston. I call it the dubious accent from nowhere. I said nothing of all this, as I did not think the officer wanted to jabber about dialects at this time.

I noticed a black-and-white cat slink by and vanish. The moment felt suddenly very noir.

Drew this many, many years ago. A bit deja vu. Looks quite a bit like our officer of the story but the shield depicted is far less impressive

The officer tapped his gold shield. I looked at it, raised the brows slightly, to reveal I was impressed. Which, I was. It looked smashing. He then glowered, “See this! It means respect. I’m a REAL police officer; this is not a GAME!” He went on to criticize my attitude, well the one that brought about my previous exclamation.

(Gosh…and I usually have such a fabulous attitude in tough situations, and for one second…well, this just proves I really am human and not translunary after-all. I smiled to myself to know I was able to accept my own mistake and not get too outraged at myself over it. Yes autty jade makes mistakes, even ones that might send her sailing off to jail.)

“Have you been ARRESTED before?!” he boomed.

Reverie over. 

“Oh no,” I said, eyes wide, gaping into the dark cavern of the back seat where he gestured, salivating over the prospect (he salivated, not I).

Our police officer was indeed very livid. He was jittery, jowls working, face pinched, eyes absolutely bulging. He was shifting his footing, like a horse with cicadas crawling up the flank. It was kind of new, this close-up encounter, though. I felt like I was someplace in Europe where individuals talk face-to-face, almost touching. I also knew that the more HD he saw of my face, the better. Perhaps he would see that I was really a harmless lass. Maybe he’d detect the fine lines on me visage and note, too, that I was beyond teenage years. Of course, when I was a teenager, I was still quite harmless. Raving good time for me was imitating exotic birds and going on…(you may have guessed it) long walks.

But still, I realised what idea had formed in his head. I was a rogue to him, a strapping micro James Dean, a “rebel without a cause” with, probably, a roll of toilet paper in my bag, or some spray cans and eggs; or I was a disgruntled and petulant Marlon Brando, deeply misunderstood, from On the Waterfront (I wouldn’t mind being either of them, really)

I must say, there was nothing roguish about me that night, other than the outburst, that I could tell. Yes, I have wild, somewhat short, hair…some locals are boggled by it. Compared to all the other Southern Belle types cursitating about (which is fabulous, just not a look for me), I might as well be a bald little boy. I also do not parade around in bikinis. I was dressed in your average green striped shirt, some front-seam jeans, with my usual very colourful track shoes. I was not even swathed in anything radical, like a t-shirt scribed “I Heart Wind Turbines,” or “I Eat Broccoli”. I had hair like Einstein’s. I had freckles. And I had one brief moment where I overreacted and said an unpleasant thing to the heavens. I forgave myself.

The officer continued on, “NOW what are you doing?!”

He said it as if he imagined the planned deed was so sick and vile he would barely be able to endure it.

Meanwhile, Thome was quivering next to me. The officer said not a word to him. Thome was clearly the subservient, law-abiding citizen I neglected to be. His hair was less radical, too, a bit more like Bozo’s, less like Einstein’s.

“Walking,” I answered the inquiry, with a hopeful eye. I was donning the very sad, apologetic look. I am sure the expression was well in HD for him as he frothed in my face.

“AH HA! AIMLESS walking! You are NOT allowed to do that!”

“Oh dear, I am devilishly sorry…” I began with genuine contriteness, “We were on our way to the nice neighbourhood back there that is so tranquil and-”

“Do you LIVE back there?!”

“Oh no, I live down the way-”

“Do you know anyone that lives there?!”

“Oh why…uh, no…” (actually, I did, but seemed to be in a, well, bumbling sort of mood, and forgot)

“Then you’re NEVER ALLOWED to walk there!”

I was not going to argue. I felt terribly bad that the officer’s feelings had so badly been damaged, and by me…someone that wanted to “join up” when she was in high school. Well, I wanted to study criminal psychology, obtain a doctorate and all that, but still, I’ve always loved crime-solving, thwarting crimes, and so forth. Always respected the vocation, indeed.

How could I reveal this fact about myself to him?

Perhaps if I mentioned I adore Inspector Morse novels. No…that would convince him that I really AM a foreigner pretending to be American… Perhaps if I tell him I love Sherlock Holmes…oh dear, better rethink that one, Sherlock tends to bash the police in those stories, rather frequently. And I better stay away from mentioning my precious P.G. Wodehouse, or he might clobber me. Police officers are always having a bad time of it in those novels, their helmets, fiancés, and uniforms getting pinched all the time…Aye, stay away from literature, Autty Jade, especially when the bloke you are yammering with is so easily ruffled…

Well, his anger was not ebbing away at all.

“ID!” he nearly screamed.

Thome produced his immediately. His hand shook slightly. I muttered, “Sorry about this mate.”

“It’s okay,” he smiled weakly.

I was traumatizing him all over again…

Police officer snagged his card and almost instantly returned it. Then, outraged, barked at me again, “ID!”

“Oh dear…I AM quite sorry…I do not have it I fear…”

“ID!” he tried a third time.

“I have no ID on me,” I responded.

Nothing to identify you?!” he glanced at my shoulder bag. No, no ID in there, either.

“I am very sorry…” I said lugubriously.

“WHERE is it?!”

“Well, at home I am afraid.”

It looked for a terrifying moment as if he was going to hurl me into that backseat and drive me there to produce that dratted ID. He seemed to mull it over.

More internal self-reproach ensued from me. The bally thing was nestled with my voter’s card crammed in a different pair of jeans at home. I really am the most bumbling oaf I know! Well, a driving card should not be so necessary to me since all I do is walk all over the place…

He was fuming. Yes, we were going to have to do the oral transfer of information.

“Birth-date!” he commanded.

I looked up and to the left to read the numbers floating in my mind. I gave it numerically.

“YOU HESITATED! You had to THINK about it! You’re LYING! See, you moved your eyes upward. That’s a little thing called body language,” he said that last bit in a cutsie sort of voice.

“Yes, I did have to think about it a wee bit, as I did not remember immediately. I don’t often get asked my birth-date. I am sorry…”

I did not add, “because, well, it is rather rude to ask a lady her age, after-all.”

I also decided not to mention that by rules of body language, up and to the left means truth, to the right, inventing. Also, looking someone solidly in their say, grey, eye, and not fidgeting, doing any mannerisms such as the “self-touch”, or even shifting the feet- usually indicates a bit of honesty is afoot. Perhaps he just assumed I was a psychopath that was not a very speedy fabricator.

I am glad I had some sagacity left and did not blurt any of this out.

I glanced at Thome. He seemed fine. The officer began to go into a lecture on how to relay one’s birthday as a “normal” (or typically conformist, or non-dyslexic, or just plain non-bumbling?), honest person.

I thought I would try again, this time giving the actual name of the month, day, and the year. I looked up and to the left again to read it in my mind. Then I relayed it. Officer was outraged. He suddenly dragged Thome into the tirade.

“What’s your birthday?!” Officer asked Thome.

Thome immediately shot out the answer, as if on a high-stakes quiz show, or in a competition for fastest speed-rapper. I was impressed. I saw a look of self-rebuke flash in his eyes though, like he had just betrayed me. I think he expected me to stumble to my knees, and in death’s last words, sputter, “Et tu Brute?!”, but instead I smiled- to him, not officer. I don’t think he was ready for grins quite yet. I would continue with the very serious, contrite, doleful expression for now.

“THAT’S how it’s done!” the officer bellowed triumphantly.

So, we were onto the name. For someone that knows so much about body language, this officer was not very excellent at hiding his own. He was clearly agog when he heard the words, “Autumn Jade”. Eyes became even more bulbouse, mouth creaked ajar, and brow furrowed in a quick glisk of astonishment. This name was clearly female…I could see his thoughts, “What kind of junk is this punk trying to pull?! What malarkey. Autumn Jade. So this dude is trying to pretend he’s a GIRL? Kids these days…they think they can get away with anything. He must think I was born on Saturn to fall for that!”

But I could see he was starting to consider the idea that maybe I was not James Dean, after all.

I persevered. Onto the last name, “Faulkner, like the lovely William Faulkner.” (I could not resist that literary reference.)

Reverie:  Perhaps I should ask him if he has read “The Pedestrian” by Ray Bradbury? No…better not. He pulled out some kind of micro cudgel and might like to bludgeon me a bit if he has read it…or is that a taser?

Then, I went on to give address.

He began to mumble into his radio. He turned away from me and hesitated over the word, “female”, as if the word made him feel bashful. He seemed much less brazen, now, and had backed away from me. Computers blinked. Another cruiser pulled up. That computer chugged. I looked to Thome, he looked to me. He was fine. He seemed to be drinking in the experience with relish now. I decided to call out, “My face will pop right up on there, I assure you.”

I smiled.

Officer retorted, “Well, it’s not popping right up! Computers are acting up.”

He was trying to regain the irate energy that seemed to be dribbling away. I gave a pained look, “Oh I’m sorry to cause all this trouble…”

It was working, slowly, working. I could tell as he said, “Don’t be sorry. This will just take a few more minutes.”

He was beginning to melt.

He tried to brush it off. He was the tough hard nasty cop of the evening, and he was going to have his revenge on all the punks that have caused such trouble in his life. I did not blame him- after the millionth call from a hysterical, sobbing grannie reporting that her garden fence has been scrawled with some very unpleasant words by some local hoodlums, I could empathise with him- and then, all those bad attitudes he has to face every day.

“What’s in the bag?!!” he suddenly demanded. He took a few steps toward me, but nowhere near as close, or as confrontational. He thought for a second, “Oh a laptop I suppose,” grey eyes narrowing.

I read his unsaid thoughts, “A laptop filled with all those roaring violent anti-police video games and links to youtube videos of cops getting creamed, talked-back at, tormented, and all these triumphant videos posted by fellow rebels and radicals of all your toilet-papering and graffiti-squirting escapades, mutilating churches, breaking windows, destroying gardens…and I suppose all the other kid trinkets, ipads, and of course, ipods so you can listen to “F-da cops” screaming into your ears millions and millions of times…”

Poor man, I thought, how oppressed he must feel all the time…

“No laptop, just art and a camera,” I simply said.

A light flashed through his eyes that were now far less bulgy. I could hear his thoughts yet again, “Oh my gawd…it’s one of THOSE people, those artistic types.” I do not think I am one of those, but I wasn’t going to start replying to his thoughts, he might get all ticked again.

It was clear that he was indeed softening. He stopped fidgeting. No more seething, no more contorted face. He was relaxing, standing almost at ease, now.

“Oh,” I added, “and carrots.”

Then I slapped on the lopsided half-grin, the little elevation of the brows, the flicker of imp in the eyes.

That did it. He laughed. YES the bumbling charm came through for me yet again.

Third cop pulled up. This one I knew. We chatted. He is a very chummy sort. My photo popped up at last on the screen. It rather resembled me. Excellent. All was well. Yes, Autumn Jade was now free, but she may never walk on side-streets. Have a good night. Farewell. The cruisers vanished. Thankfully this whole time, the lights were never turned on. That would have made me nervous.

It was after they had gone that I remembered I actually did know someone in that neighbourhood, and we were very chummy, and I also used to live there meself, but oh well, as you, reader, may have noticed by now, I can be slightly forgetful. And now it is a fabulous night, the stars are absolutely blazing, the air fresh and crisp, the palm leaf fronds scintillating in pale slivers of moonlight! It is a fabulous night for a walk, indeed.

Cheers,

Autumn Jade