Body and Soul
Stan was lucky that the neighbor behind the house called the emergency services. If the cops had been any later, Sylvia might have killed him.
Stan was taken to the county hospital's ER. The doctors had given Stan fifty stitches on the front and back of his shoulder, plus a couple of shots for the pain and infection.
Before Sylvia was brought into the ER, she had to be sedated and tied to her hospital bed, on account of her distraught behavior, kicking and screaming. The bullet was still in her shoulder had be removed. And the collar bone had to be set.
The cop that shot Sylvia visited Stan in his room. Stan told the cop all that went on before the incident. The cop's name was Dave Calvin. Dave suggested that Sylvia be put in custody for psychiatric observation for a couple of days, possibly a week. Stan thought it might be better for both him and his wife to be away from each other for a while. There was no telling what Sylvia would do to Stan again. Stan didn't even want to think beyond the now.
Stan signed a document allowing the authorization to keep Sylvia under hospital care. Dave shook Stan's hand and left the hospital room.
If only Stan could figure out what ignited his wife's outrageous behavior, that would make him feel a whole lot better. He had trouble sleeping the night after, he kept seeing his wife's crazed look, like some demon had infected her brain with a killer instinct.
* * *
Stan was released from the hospital two days later. He took a taxi home. The house felt cold for some reason. No one had been in the house for two and a half days. Stan felt a sinister chill crawl down his spine. So Stan closed up the house and drove off to his parent's house, in his gray Dodge Ram pickup truck.
His parents lived on the other side of the county, which took nearly forty minutes travel time. The drive felt calming for Stan, the mountain air had a cool and refreshing feel to it.
He grew up in his parent's house. The house was situated in a valley with mountains surrounding the town. The house was a ranch style, brick covered home. It had four bedrooms, so there was plenty of room for him to stay. The driveway in the front of the house was paved with hexagonal brick pavers. Stan had helped his father work on the driveway a couple of summers back. The bricks had a dark red color.
Stan pulled up just after three in the afternoon. The house looked quiet. He knocked on the front door. In what seemed to be a long wait, the door opened. His father, Pete Norris, stood in the doorway for a second and said "Hi, son, come on in." His father had hair that was so gray it looked silver. He wore glasses with thin frames.
"Hi, dad, how's Owen?" He opened the storm door and walk in. The front door led to a foyer with stone tile. The living room opened up from the foyer. The room had a vaulted ceiling with a skylight in the center. It lit up the entire room during the day; at night, with all the lights turn off, you could see the stars .
"Dad!" Owen was about seven years old; he had a fascination of building things with legos. That's what Owen was working on before Stan appeared. On a little wooden table, sprawled out across the surface, there stood what looked like a dome structure.
Owen got up and ran to his father. Stan kneeled down and gave him a big hug. "Hi, Owen, how’ve you been?" Stan asked.
"Great, Dad. I just built a neat house with legos. Want to see?" Owen pointed to the lego structure on the little table.
"Sure, let me see!" Owen ran to the table, while Stan walked over to the couch to sit down. The couch faced the front of the little table. The TV in the corner of the room was turned off. His parents usually left the TV off during the day. His parents preferred the piece and quiet, so they opted to read during the day.
"That’s neat, son." Owen handed his father the finished dome structure. It was built entirely out of white Lego bricks. There was a bottom attached to the dome. On the top of the dome, Stan discovered that it could be removed. He twisted the top back and forth, it slid off. Looking inside the dome, revealed a meticulous layout of a floor plan. Stan could see what looked like a four room design; also, there was a kitchen, dining room and a living room.
"How long did it take you to build this, son?"
Owen just shrugged.
"He’s been working on it all day, " his father said, who yelled from the kitchen.
"That's impressive, son. Why don't you keep building, while I talk to your Grandpa."
Stan gave the dome back to his son, and walk to the kitchen. His father had just poured two glasses of soda at the breakfast bar. Stan pulled out a stool and sat down. His father took another stool, and sat on the other side.
"How's the arm, Stan?" Pete asked.
Stan took a swig of the ice cold soda, and organized his thoughts. Stan called his parent's house just before he left the hospital. He filled them in on what happened earlier. "Well, it's a little sore. Where's Mom?"
"She went to the grocery store just a while ago."
Stan nodded, and then took another drink. "How's your novel coming, Dad?"
"I've just about finished the third draft. Once that’s complete, I'll send it over to my agent." His father started writing five years ago, just after retirement as the executive editor of a major publishing company. He had a great love for science fiction stories, which was what he mostly wrote. This would be his tenth published novel. Seven of the novels made it to the New York Times best seller list.
"Do you think that it will be published this year?"
"It might make it at the end of the year, late December."
"That's good. How's Mom holding up?"
"She's doing great." Stan's mom had her left hip and knee replaced a year ago. She seemed to have healed quickly, for her age of 65. "The new hip and knee aren't giving her any trouble." They better not give her any trouble, they cost enough. They were made out of a material stronger and lighter than titanium.
"I just can't believe that Sylvia pushed me off the latter like that, Dad." Stan closed his eyes and put his head down. "She almost killed me."
"It's alright, son," His father reached over and patted his son's uninjured shoulder. "Did the doctors at the hospital tell you anything about why she acted that way?"
Stan picked his head up and shook no. "They only said she needed to be kept under observation for a while. I don't think she's going to improve under observation. I saw the look in her eyes, like she wasn't herself; someone else was controlling her. She looked completely mad."
"We'll just have to wait and see if there is any improvement," his father said.
Stan nodded, and hoped his father was right. All Stan wanted was for his wife to return to normal. Before she started becoming irritable. He just wanted everything to be okay.
The sound of the garage door opening sounded through the back door of the kitchen. It was Stan's mom who pulled up into the garage. She honked the car horn.
Stan and his father stood in unison and walked to the garage and helped her with the groceries. The car was a burgundy Chevy Venture minivan.
"Hi, Stan," his mom, Annika, said. She got out of the car and gave Stan a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"Hi, Mom, it's good to see you." He returned her greeting, wincing at the tightness in his shoulder. "I don't think I'll be able to help much with the groceries."
"That's fine, Stan, your father and I can manage. Why don't you just go back into the house and sit down." Annika looked young for her age; her hair still had some color to it, brown with gray specks. She had few wrinkles on her face.
Stan agreed and walked back into the house. Annika and Pete went in and out of the garage a couple of times. They moved in what seemed to be a silent, telepathic union. His parents had been married for about forty-five years. That might be the reason why they had such a silent understanding only a close couple could have. It was almost as if they spoke a different language only they could understand.
"Well, Stan, what sounds good to eat?" Annika asked, as she unpacked the groceries and put them away.
"Anything will sound good right now. I haven't eaten since breakfast." Stan patted his stomach.
"How about spaghetti, it should only take about an hour to put together." She held up a box of noodles and shook it. The noodles rattled in the box.
"Sounds tasty. I can't wait. Did you get any Italian bread?"
"Yes, fresh from Tomarro’s bakery." She smiled. Her smiles always made Stan feel better.
"Grandma!" Owen ran to her and gave her a hug. "I missed you."
"Owen, I've only been gone forty minutes." She gave Stan a wink. "I've a surprise for you." She held Owen's hand and reached into one of the bags that was brought in. When she pulled her hand out of the bag, a tall, blue bucket came out. When Owen realized the bucket was filled with legos, his blue eyes lit up.
"All right! Thank you, Grandma."
"This is so you can build something bigger." She handed the bucket to Owen. "Now, why don't you take this in the living room, and build something for me."
"OK, Grandma!" With determined strength, Owen took the handle and half dragged and carried the bucket out of the kitchen.
"That boy sure loves to build things. Sounds like someone we know," Pete said. Annika and Pete gave each other a look. Stan just shook his head, knowing that they were talking about him.
* * *
As usual, Annika made a tasty meal. Just the right amount of spices, and plenty of garlic to keep the vampires away for the night. The evening went by smoothly. Stan stayed the night, and the rest of the weekend. He asked if his parents could take care of Owen for awhile, at least until Sylvia returned to her normal self, whenever that might be. His parents agreed that it would be for the best.
Stan left early on Monday, so he could make it back to work. The concrete business was a good living; specializing in foundations, driveways, and spray-in-place concrete.
The business that Stan founded had at least 120 employees. Two projects throughout the county were taking place. No more than two projects took place at one time. One project in particular – a building that had to be constructed using the spray-in-place formula – was designed to be indestructible; neither wind, nor fire could destroy it.
Stan drove up to the construction office near the sight. The sight was excavated the previous week.
As Stan got out of his truck, Ken Hobbs approached. Ken was Stan's second in charge. He took over whenever Stan wasn't around.
"Stan, welcome back," Ken said.
"Ken," Stan replied.
Ken shook Stan's hand, and gave him the daily construction report. It was a clear acrylic clipboard. Stan scanned the report. There appeared to be no apparent flaws in the list of workers at the sight. All the equipment was accounted for. One last thing, the rebar and the concrete had not been checked off yet.
"I take it that the rebar has not arrived," Stan said .
"It should be here shortly," Ken said. "I just phoned our supplier, and they said they're on their way."
"Good, we can't start on the foundation without them." Stan and Ken walked over to the excavated area; the bulldozers were parked on the other side of the dirt piles.
The two approached the pit and looked down. The hole was at least ten feet deep; that was nearly the height of a one story house. The footer forms were in place, ready for the concrete to be poured. There was a steady incline dug on the far end of the hole, this was for the cement truck. A group of the workers were in the hole, finishing up the dirt removal. The workers saw Stan and waved their respect. Stan reciprocated the gesture.
"Ready to pour some concrete, men!" Stan shouted.
"Yes, sir," the men replied.
Stan gave them a thumbs up. His men respected him; after all, he was their boss. He didn't have to boss them around, at least not every day. The workers still needed to be told what to do every once in awhile.
Stan and Ken walked to the main office trailer and entered. The contrast between the warm humid air outside and the cool dry air in the office was refreshing. A desk, a couch, and two chairs were in the trailer. On one side of the office wall, behind the desk, there hung a bulletin board and a dry erase board. The dry erase board had a chart drawn on it with the supplies list and prices. The bulletin board contained work orders and certificates and permits.
Stan went to the side of the desk and poured a cup of coffee. He sat at the desk, which had the building blueprints lying on it. The first order of business was to double check to see if the hole had the correct dimensions. According to the blueprints, the pit needs to be 700ft² (square feet), and 10ft deep. Everything looked good.
Ken sat on the couch and took the newspaper and read the headlines. Stan looked at Ken and said, "Anything interesting in the news?"
"A couple car accidents, a new law passed, and two murders."
"Sounds like a great day for news. I think I know why they say no news is good news." They both laughed.
"By the way, how's the arm, Stan?" Ken was still reading the paper.
Stan sat there for a moment, thinking what to say. "It's not too bad. Just a little sore."
Stan told him what happened while he was in the hospital. Seeing how Stan was injured on Wednesday, he would not have been able to go to work; besides, the doctor that treated him said that he should take a couple of days off just to let the shoulder mend a little before any strenuous activity. Stan also called to make sure that Ken could take care of business with the rest of the excavation process. From the look of the pit outside, Ken did a good job supervising in Stan's absence. But how much did one need to know about digging a hole in the ground. True, you had to be careful about gas and electric lines, but that was already taken care of two weeks earlier, before Stan's little incident with the hedge clippers and his wife.
Good thing Stan had Ken to take care of the business. Stan had hired Ken a year after he started the business. His lawyer told him it would be beneficial for the company to have a second supervisor, in case of an unforeseeable accident, like the one that occurred on Wednesday.
"Was there any problems while I was gone?" Stan asked, scanning the documents on his desk.
Stan's left eyebrow arced above his eye a centimeter. "Meaning?"
"Oh, the Daryl brothers got into a disagreement about something."
The Daryl brothers were Steve and Mike Daryl, who were hired six months before. They were in their early twenties. Steve was twenty-five, and Mike was twenty-three. The Daryl brothers almost always disagreed about something—but disagreed wasn't doing it justice. When they disagreed it was usually with fists and feet. If Stan didn't know their father, Nick Daryl, owner of the Construction Supply Office, they would have been fired at the first fight. But he did know their father and they weren't fired, just disciplined.
They were put on sight cleanup crew, which is the lowest job that a construction worker could do. Sight cleanup involved picking up trash (cigarette butts, empty containers, used coffee cups) during and at the end of the work day. Sight cleanup also involved cleaning the Johnny-on-the-spot porta crappers. This added insult to injury. No one wanted to be part of the sight cleanup crew, but somebody had to do it. This little disciplinary action usually got the Daryl brothers to stop fighting. One month was the record.
"Did you punish them accordingly?"
"Yep, I was only too happy to do it." Ken laughed, so did Stan.
Ken turned the page of newspaper he was reading. "Are you still planning on attending the Concrete Exposition in the fall?"
Stan nodded his head. "I hope to. But in light of my current situation with Sylvia, I'm not sure now."
The Concrete Exposition was the yearly gathering of members of the Concrete Builders Association from across the country. It is where all the people involved in concrete meet to share ideas about building techniques and procedures. The Concrete Exposition began in the early seventies, when building homes out of concrete was just an idea. This wasn't a new idea. It began near the end of World War II–just after the U.S. nuked Japan the second time. When Japan surrendered to the U.S., the U.S. sent surveyors in lead-lined moon suits to Japan to collect data on the damage the two nuclear bombs caused. On the fourth mission, there was a dome structure that was intact – the buildings surrounding the area were leveled – the dome was undamaged—undamaged, meaning that as far as the support structure was concerned, it was uncompromised. The dome exterior was crispered, but the interior showed little or no damage. This evidence wasn't released until twenty years after it was documented. That left ten more years for one person to start a following to incorporate concrete into a dome that was both cost effective and strong enough for people to build dome homes. Today, there have been advances in the construction process that have made building dome homes affordable and practical.
Members of the Concrete Builders Association are part of the Dome Builders Co-operative.
And Stan Norris is an active member. Stan hasn't missed an exposition since he discovered his obsession of building indestructible buildings. Stan didn't call it an obsession, it was his job to construct safe buildings. The building that was going on outside this trailer was his job. The future apartment building that was to stand fifty feet from the door of this trailer was evidence of progress of dome building. If this project is a success, and it should be, it will quite possibly change the world.
But the most pressing thing in Stan's life now was finding out what was wrong with his wife. You could say that his life depends on it. But what could Stan do? Stan had no clue what could have spurred his wife's behavior. He and his wife were at the mercy of the doctors.
Silence in the room was deafening except for the constant hum of the air conditioner. "How about you?" Stan looked at Ken.
"I'm pretty sure I'll make it. Caren and the kids are going to come this time." Caren was Ken's wife, they had five kids.
"Sounds like an adventure to me." Stan couldn't help but laugh.
"Yeah, the family can be a handful sometimes." Ken joined Stan's laughing. "You think five is a lot, try living in a family of ten, it's like living in a small platoon, where every day living is an adventure, especially when your the middle child, buddy." Ken was still laughing.
"That must have been fun." Stan's laughing subsided. He began shuffling the papers on his desk, trying to sort through the mess. "But I got a question. If living in a family of ten is like a platoon, how did you ever learn to clean a mess?" Stan grabbed some of the papers on the desk and held them up.
"Hey, running a platoon is messy. There's no time to clean up." Ken laughed some more then ran out of steam. "Sorry about that, Stan. I meant to clean that before you got back."
"I'll let it slide this time. But I could use a little help, considering I was stabbed by a pair of hedge clippers." He lifted the arm that was in a sling, albeit slowly.
"Sure, Stan, you got it." Ken folded the news paper neat and precise. Since Ken wasn't always messy Stan forgave him, at least this time around.