Chapter 1: Miracle in the Outhouse

Who would ever have thought going to the outhouse in the dead of winter would become a mystical experience? Because my indoor plumbing was frozen when I came home from a polka party and I got tangled up with Hosmer Q Hogben, a smelly self appointed representative of "God, Jehovah, Attila and all them other gods too numerous to mention" and a whole slew of other weird people. For instance, some murderous Baptists up from Texas wanted me dead because their preacher told them I was an agent of the Devil.

Here at home some of the big shots in the Mormon Church wanted me to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and perform miracles as a part of the regular Sunday services. Then there were the people who wanted me dead, others who wanted to put me in prison, and even some evil old men who tried to have me kidnapped for their own evil reasons.

To think, it all started the evening I took Rachel to a polka party I didn't even want to attend in the first place.

Before that night, the height of my ambition was to get Rachel Nelson alone and do guy stuff with her, either with marriage first, or to just practice up for the honeymoon. Rachel was (and still is) my main interest in life. The Mormons have more than their share of beautiful women and Rachel is a Mormon. What more can I say?

Like I said, it all began the night of the polka party that almost broke us up. She asked me to take her and I told her flatly, "Rachel, I don't want to go to some dumb party where people get all hot and sweaty because they jump up and down in time to stupid tuba music. Let's spend the evening at either your place or mine and watch TV or something. Let's go to a movie. I don't care what it is we do so long as does not include a polka party. Who needs it?

"I never been to a polka party before in my life. I don't want to go to a polka party. I know nothing about polkas. I mean it."

She gave me the superior look she gets some times, "Forrest, dearest one, you hate television and you walked out of the last movie we attended because it had no plot." She did have a point there.

"Well, I hate polka parties more than I do humorless TV and movies without plots,"

"Sweetheart, how do you know you don't like polka parties if you have never been to one?" She fluttered her eyes at me and kissed me oh-so-softly on the lips. "Please?" she whispered. She was using unfair tactics on me again.

As usual, I gave in, especially when she pressed her front against my front. "All right. I'll take you to that stupid polka party, but I will not have a good time." Whenever she kisses me like that I turn all quivery inside and my firm resolve sends its firmness elsewhere.

The polka thing started when a family of homesick transplanted Minnesotans in her church ward decided to share the high spirituality of Polish folk music with we culturally deprived unfortunates who have never heard a tuba used as the lead instrument in slow dance music.

Mister Pilsudski announced he and his wife were going to, "Trow da goldangest polka party dis here town ever saw."

You have not truly lived until you dance the Kentucky Waltz to the low, mournful sounds of a tuba. In the middle of one slow waltz I realized a tuba makes a beautiful sound. The longing, mournful tones of the tuba emphasized the sadness of the waltz.

Oh yes, you have listened to "Dueling Banjos," probably. But you haven't lived until you hear "Dueling Tubas" played to two fat guys wearing lieder hose, cheeks out and red facer blowing their hearts out.

Like I said, I didn't expect to enjoy myself. To be honest, I tried hard not to have a good time. Rachel Nelson, my one romantic interest in life insisted. Usually I'm a pretty quiet sort of person and hated the idea of attending a noisy party where I knew no one except Rachel. She kept insisting and wheedling until finally, of course, we went.

We came early and stayed late. We danced those goofy polkas and schottisches until I was ready to drop. Rachel never ran out energy. The more she danced the more excited she became. Her eyes flashed, her skirt swirled and she showed a lot of leg as she urged me to dance one more dance and then another. Halfway through the evening I was ready to call it quits. I wanted to sit on the sidelines while all the other guests wore themselves out. My legs ached and trembled from all the exertion.

That was when I realized how much fun it was fun to dance to music in a coordinated way and didn't worry about looking cool or flip or hip or whatever. Schottisches and polkas and old timey waltzes kept us out on the dance floor until almost midnight. By then we were both ready to drop. We sat and sipped our last mugs of hot, spicy, apple cider and thanked our hosts for what turned out to be the greatest evening we had enjoyed together in a long time, perhaps ever.

She snuggled up next to me in the car. "See?" she gloated, "I was right, wasn't I? You had a great time and don't you dare try to deny it, I know you did. Let's do this every week." She kept rubbing it in. Like so many women, Rachel has to be right, always. Even when she's wrong she has to be right.

It began to snow right after we left the party. The sky was overcast. More and more snowflakes fell and the headlights cut twin beams of light in front of us that seemed to stop about fifteen feet ahead of the car. We were alone in a world of falling snow, seeming isolated from everything else as two beams of light led us.

Then with no warning a soft green light shined down on the car. It had a white core and seemed to keep pace with us as we made our way to Rachel's house. This was stranger than strange.

"What is that?" Rachel asked.

"Damned if I know," I answered. "Maybe it's a flying saucer."

"Don't swear," she told me. Everything this side of "golly gee whiz and heck" is swearing to Rachel. It is a part of her Mormon upbringing.

She thought a moment and said, "I don't think it's a flying saucer because I don't believe in them." The unspoken message was, "And if I don't believe in them they can't exist." I didn't answer. I figured I would only get in an argument if I did.

When we arrived at her apartment, I kissed her at the front door and left. Not because I wanted to, but because I better. Usually I stayed an hour or so. We would sit and neck a little and make plans for after the some time in the future wedding ceremony. But not this evening. I wanted to get home before the snow was got too deep. As it was all that fresh snow on the road made it a touchy drive back to my place.

My old three-bedroom house sits on forty acres of land northeast of Salt Lake City a distance off I-80 on a narrow dirt road little more than a long driveway. It wanders past another small spread like mine then up into the foothills where it starts to peter out to become a game trail. Then it disappears completely. Rachel and I hiked all around the foothills up behind my place. The animals knew we were friendly. I always carried a baggie of dried fruit up there with me when we went on our walks and gave the deer treats they came to expect.

On that weird Friday evening, while Rachel and I kicked up our heels and lived the wild life, the temperature dropped way down and the first snow of the season began to fall, melted and froze to the black pavement. Then fresh snow fell and covered it. I knew my ugly old four-wheel drive Ford Bronco would keep me on the road so long as I took it easy.

I was not real worried about road conditions, just cautious. It was the early in November when we had our first snow of the season. I knew from past experience idiots would be out playing games on the icy roads only idiots with a few brews in them liked to play. I thought of Rachel as I drove and smiled. From the very first we knew we belonged together. We were not looking for romance, either of us, nor realized how empty our lives were until we met in high school. When we met, we looked at each other and knew we were us. It was that simple.

My early years were spent in a series of indifferent foster homes. I never knew who my father was and I barely remember my mother. Most what I remember I don't like. She was a loud drunken woman who cursed a lot and smacked me around whenever she was drunk, which was usually. Finally, one night when I was about five, she took me to a church building. She dropped me off and disappeared, never to be seen again. I sat there, huddled up and scared in the doorway of that old building all night long until a passerby saw me and called the authorities.

The only reason they knew my name was my birth certificate had been pinned onto the back of my coat. When I met Rachel, I had little idea what love, romantic or otherwise, was. I knew something was missing from my life and whatever it was. I wanted it.

On the other hand, Rachel had been raised a strict Mormon, taught from birth if a boy "took liberties" and she permitted it she could end up on State Street, one of those women. She was a junior in high school before she found out who and what those women were. She told one of her girl friends once she didn't see what was so wrong about hanging around on street corners just talking to people.

The friend was the daughter of Rachel's bishop. He told her parents what Rachel said. Her mom almost had a nervous breakdown. Her dad exploded, whipped her with a belt and claimed it was a Baptist plot to lead his innocent daughter astray. Then Rachel met me and we felt the same instant attraction. We were both lonely and from the very first filled each other's needs.

We were what they called "an item" in Mormon circles. Her parents disapproved of me from day one because I was not a Mormon. Of course, Rachel became defiant and clung to me all the tighter. In the beginning I was her sole act of rebellion against her restrictive parents.

Then, not long after we graduated from high school her father threatened to "beat me within an inch of my life" if I didn't stop trying to lead his precious daughter into the ways of the world. She became angry and left home after I told her about the threat.

She wouldn't move in with me like I wanted, but we spent a lot of good time together on weekends, usually at my place. She made it plain from her first visit she would sleep in the guest room and she would sleep all alone. Of course I wanted other sleeping arrangements but she stood firm so that's the way it was. "We get married first before we make babies," she told me in no uncertain terms.

Like I already pointed out, on the night of the dance, because of the snow we decided it would be better if I went straight home and didn't stay and neck and pet a little as I usually did. If the roads were plowed and salted by the next morning she planned to drive on out. By then marriage was definitely in our future. It surprised me when I realized how much I liked the idea. I liked it a whole lot.

I parked in front of the house and looked around. It had stopped snowing and the moon came out. My house, the surrounding field of white snow and the soft moon glow combined to create a Thomas Kinkaid painting.

From early spring to late fall the land around the house was covered with green, punctuated with flashes of red and white and yellow and blue. That evening, a soft white blanket of clean snow covered everything. There were shadowy, slightly darker mounds here and there. They marked the locations of the many rose bushes waiting for spring to come back to life.

The man who sold me the property two years previous had planted every type of rose imaginable, as well as many other plants and vines. They all thrived and gave the place a Fairyland look when in full bloom.

Rachel told me once she wouldn't have been too surprised to see a knight on a great white horse come riding through my front yard some day searching for a dragon to slay or a fair maiden to rescue. I told her I would buy her a horse and she could play Lady Godiva. She smiled and answered, "After marriage, my little stud puppy,"

Behind the house there was a half-acre of black berries and wild raspberries, as well as grape vines and even more roses and other flowers. Wild rose vines covered the storage sheds and the old outhouse in the back yard. All in all it was just right for me. I had my privacy and a beautiful place to work. For me this was the good life. Then everything changed the Friday night I came home from the Polka party...

I took one last look around the yard and started toward the house. All at once a greenish light just like the one we saw in Salt Lake City shined down on the back yard. When I ran around back the light was centered on the old outhouse. As I drew near I became dizzy and my head and body tingled. An electric shock ran through me, then it was gone and I stood alone in the back yard freezing my butt off. I shook my head to clear it and slowly went up the steps to the back door.

A blast of icy cold air greeted me when I stepped inside. My cantankerous old furnace had gone out again. Utah, especially around Salt Lake City, is plagued with more power outages than any other place I know of. Even a modern day Paradise has its serpents and sour apples. Perversely, the electricity came back on just as I entered the house. Quickly I hurried to check the plumbing. Frozen water lines are a nightmare to cope with when they burst.

The water pipe from the well under the house was wrapped in heat tape. It usually came on automatically when the temperature dropped down to near freezing. Even with the power off the tape had insulated the pipe and protected it. My big problem turned out to be the toilet tanks in both bathrooms. They froze and cracked. I placed a pan under each to catch the water as the ice in the tanks melted. I knew they would have to be replaced first thing in the morning. I grabbed a flashlight and went back down into the basement to close the water valves to the bathrooms and reset the furnace relay.

I hurried upstairs, undressed and dove into bed. I lay there and shivered a few seconds until the heat from my electric blanket warmed me. Just as I started to drift off to sleep I heard the furnace kick in. It was a reassuring sound.

The next morning I got out of bed and hurried to dress. The toilet tanks had to be replaced first thing. I wanted the repairs done and over with quick as possible because Rachel was coming. I hurried outside to answer the call of nature and make a fresh supply of yellow snow in the back yard. Then back inside to check the rest of the plumbing in the basement. Everything else seemed okay. This time I had lucked out. A quick breakfast of coffee and toast was enough to get me started for the day.

I had a second call of nature I could not do in the back yard. It meant a trip to the old antique outhouse in the back yard. I left the outhouse standing on a whim. I thought it looked "rustic." Let me tell you though, whoever invented drafty outhouses hated people. There is nothing gets your attention more and faster than to sit on the throne and have a great gust of icy air blast up across your bare backside. I hurried to finish.

A dried, brown wild rose bud hung on its brittle equally dried vine just outside the door. As I stepped out I touched it lightly and wished it were alive and growing. Suddenly I felt a tingling almost-but-not-quite electric vibration in my fingers where they came in contact with the dead vine. I remembered the light last night and the tingle I felt all through me then. Startled, I jerked my hand back and looked at my fingers. Nothing seemed wrong so I pushed it out of my mind and went back inside to remove the two broken toilet tanks before the water in them completely thawed all over the floor. I got in my old Ford and drove into town.

The hardware store was open by the time I arrived in Coalville, the nearest town to my house. I made my purchases and hurried home, anxious to get things fixed and back on track. I looked forward to Rachel's visit if the roads were clear enough for her to make it in her little old Metro.

We both loved the mountains and enjoyed walking along the old game trails. Not very exciting, but then neither of us were considered "exciting" people. We tentatively planned marriage for the following June in a simple wedding attended by our equally unexciting friends and her family. I had no idea where my mother was or if she was even alive. Sad to say, I really didn't care. How do you bond with a bad memory?

By the time I got home, Rachel's car was parked in front. I grinned as I carried my first load into the house and set it down in the bathroom. She came up to me as I headed out the door for the second load. "Forrest, what's going on out there?" she asked me without the usual greeting and kiss.

"Hi, babe, you just get here?" I asked her.

She ignored my greeting. "Forrest, what's going on back there?" She nodded toward the back yard.

"Uh oh, I have a propane leak?" I started toward the back door. Leaky propane tanks are bad business.

"No, I mean, what's going on in your back yard?" She frowned at me.

"Why, nothing is going on in my back yard as far as I know," I told her. "What are you talking about?"

"Forrest, I'm talking about that flower growing in the outhouse. How did you start a flower growing there, of all places?"

I looked closely at her. I wondered if she'd been eating yellow snow or something. "Flower growing in the outhouse? What are you talking about? What flower?"

"I think you better come see for yourself." She had a tense look on her face like I had never seen before. Rachel is not a hysterical person, which is why I began to feel uneasy. I figured if she was uneasy, I better be uneasy too, even if I couldn't figure what we were uneasy about.

She led the way out to the drafty old privy and pointed. I looked where she pointed and saw a rose blossom. It was the most delicate shade of soft pink I had ever seen. No big deal, so I told her, "So you put a plastic flower out here. So what? It's pretty. Am I missing something? What's it supposed to mean?"

She drew a ragged breath into her lungs and told me, "I-did-not-put-the-flower-there. And that thing is alive."

Okay, I figured, a joke's a joke, but enough is enough. Have you ever noticed how our minds seem to grasp at trite old sayings in times of uncertainty? I reached out to take it from the crack it was stuck in and got a real funny feeling in the pit of my stomach as I felt the same electric "tingle" again. The flower didn't feel like any plastic I ever touched before. I jerked my hand back and yelled, "It's alive!" Chills ran up and down my back and I stepped away from the open door.

"You didn't do this?" she asked. I numbly shook my head no and she said, "Oh my." Now there was the understatement of the year.

Somehow I hadn't noticed when she first showed it to me but the rest of the vine was green also. I wondered how I missed it, but was too numb inside to pursue the thought. "Let's go into the house and figure this out." Then I told her, not too originally, "Something's not right here. Flowers just don't come to life in the middle of the winter."

"Uh, yes, let's get away from here. This makes me nervous." She grabbed my arm and we stumbled through the snow in a beeline for the house.

We carefully negotiated the icy steps up to the back porch. As we stopped at the door I looked back. The green of the flowering vine became a train of color all over the outside of the privy. The vine was alive and seemed to grow by the second. She shuddered, I shivered and we beat feet inside.

My mind didn't function well right then. After all, how many times do you come upon a healthy climbing rose vine growing in the middle of the winter in near zero weather? My mind went into shutdown mode. "It really is alive," I said and hoped, desperately I hoped she would say, "April fool" or "Gotcha." She didn't.

"Forrest, do you know what's going on there? Do you have any idea at all?"

"Well, if it isn't an invasion of the Mad Mormons from Mars, I have no idea at all." I also tend to retreat into futile attempts of humor to cope in pressure situations. No matter how I tried to lessen the strangeness of the situation with a joke, it didn't work. We were both scared witless, as the old saying goes.

She looked at me and asked, "Who do we tell about this?"

There was one question I knew the answer to. "No one," I told her. "If we go blabbing how I have rose vines growing around my out house in the dead of winter, we'd be laughed out of the state. You are a Mormon and I'm not all that religious. Can't you see the weird looks we'd get from the Baptists?"

Hey, some very nice people are Baptists. But you know how it is here in Utah. Any time a Baptist can stick it to a Mormon, he'll do it. He might apologize later, but he'll do the sticking first. Mormons and Baptists are just like cats and dogs in a small closet. (Vice versa, too.) The Mormons are just more polite about the sticking, usually.

"Forrest, no matter what you think, we have to tell somebody. This is important." She talked to me like I was a retarded three year old.

"Important to whom?" I asked her. "Look, Rachel, if it hadn't happened here, or anywhere else, the whole world would still keep on going around and nobody would think we're nuts. Remember, I do business on the Internet. Vendors must be feet on the ground type guys. Otherwise they end up going broke. So we forget it and maybe, just maybe it'll go away."

Early on, in high school I learned I was good at buying and selling things. Soon after graduation, I discovered auctions and sales on the Internet. There I found what I thought of as my life's work. The Internet and I fit each other comfortably.

"Forrest, I can't reason with you when you're being unreasonable. I'm going home." She put her coat back on and walked out the front door, down the steps and got in her car. Now she really ticked me off. I had looked forward to her visit and here she was on her way out the door.

I ran out to her car before she started it and said, "Remember, not a word about this to anyone, okay?" I started to shiver because. I forgot to put my coat on when I followed her out into the cold. She mumbled something and I ran back inside where it was warmer.

Six hours later, Mormons, two carloads of them, invaded me, and they were definitely from Salt Lake and not from Mars. It was dark outside by then and I had just put the finishing touches on an ad explaining how nobody should be forced to live without one of my refurbished computers for only one hundred and eighty dollars. (Plus shipping and handling.) Then the front door opened and I heard Rachel say, "Come on in, he's in his den." It sounded like she was talking about a grumpy bear.

I got up, stretched and walked out into the living room and found eight Mormons. One of them I had seen on television a few times and changed channels rather than listen to his unctuous brand of BS. The others were just plain old generic black suits with nameplates pinned to their chests so they wouldn't forget their names.

"What's this?" I asked her in an emotionless voice. "I thought we agreed to let this mess drop."

"No, Forrest, you agreed, I didn't. Bishop Long has gone out back to see the flower. This is stake president Christiansen. These other gentlemen from Church Headquarters were in a meeting with him. They wanted to come along in case they were needed." I figured what she meant was if there was potential for great press they wanted to make certain the LDS Church was not left out.

Bishop Long came in the back door with a very troubled look on his face. Between his right thumb and forefinger he carried a green leaf. "This is not natural," he said in a strained voice.

I began to get angry at the intrusion "Look, will you all, please, just get out of here and go home? I don't like people poking and prying around in my private life. Just..." I took a deep breath and let it out, "get out and go home."

"What are you trying to hide here?" Stake president Christiansen asked and gave me a suspicious look. He was an insurance executive in real life, when he wasn't hanging out with Jesus, and it showed. He was one of those people who thought a loud voice and a blustery manner would make him seem authoritative. Instead, it proved him loud mouthed and obnoxious.

"My privacy. I want my privacy. I do not like a bunch of strangers invading my privacy and interfering with my life. Please, all of you just go away."

Bishop Long's jowls quivered and his round ruddy face paled. "Young man, Brother Eden, you can't actually mean what you just said. These are people of no little importance in the church and they traveled all the way out here to see this ... this..."

"You want to say miracle and you don't have the guts to say it outright because you do not care to be ridiculed. Right?" Okay, so I wasn't being a gracious host right then. I don't like pushy people. They irritate me.

Calmly he looked at me and answered, "No, I would not be afraid to say 'miracle' if it is deemed by the church to be one. Right now it is the most amazing thing I have ever seen."

I disliked him before I first met him because he kept counseling Rachel not to see me any more. He kept blathering something about oxen being unequally yoked. When he said this in front of me I told him she was the best looking little ox I ever saw. He spluttered and walked away. I decided not to go back to any more meetings in his ward. I had attended church with Rachel a few times to please her. After that day I decided no more.

The bishop learned I made my living selling on eBay and Yahoo and other places. It horrified him when he found out I jokingly wrote a glowing testimony that described the "possible good luck to be had by owning a cross blessed by an African voodoo priest." And right then I was tempted to punch the fat clown in the nose.

"Go away," I said to him.

"Forrest, wait," Rachel called to me.

"Please, you go away too. I want to be alone." I turned away from her. Right then I felt she had betrayed me and had no respect for my own wishes.

"Forrest," she said my name in a hurt tone of voice. I did not respond.

The General authority, I didn't know his name, grabbed my shoulder as if to restrain me. I twirled around and said harshly, "You want that damned plant, I'll get you the lousy thing."

I stormed out of the house, fell on my butt and bounced down the icy steps, got up and headed to the outhouse with a little less dignity than before. I grabbed a handful of vine complete with two blossoms and jerked hard. They broke loose easily enough. I pushed the other, still dried rose vines out of my way and got the same tingly feeling in my fingers as before. It was stronger this time.

I carried the section of vine with its three blossoms into the house, handed it to the horrified general authority and said, "This is what you want. You now have it, get out." The stunned people quietly turned and left. My ad-writing mood was ruined. I hate to be disturbed while working. It was one reason I moved a few miles out into the country.

Any time I felt the need for noise, I had my DVDs. My music tastes range from country western to the old European masters, like Brahms and Beethoven. Right then I was so angry over the whole thing I just wanted silence. Then I got restless because it was so quiet.

I dressed for the cold and went for a walk on one of the well-traveled game trails I enjoy hiking along in the wintertime. I was upset by what I considered Rachel's betrayal and needed to go for a walk and sort things out.

The deer in the area all know me and feel safe around me even during hunting season. Two especially friendly does came up to me. The animals in the area and I have always gotten along well. One reason is the few pieces of dried fruit I kept in my jacket pocket to feed the deer or whatever else I happen to meet. These two deer seemed to have radar tuned in to my frequency. Every time I came up there it seemed they were waiting for me. They both gently nuzzled my right glove.

I removed the glove and reached into my pocket to bring out their usual two dried apple quarters each and patted them. Unlike the people I met during the day, they had no designs on anything beyond the snacks I brought them. All they ever asked of me were the goodies I gave them and a little petting. They were well mannered about everything, not like the people I just met. I rubbed around the base of their ears one last time and turned away to go home.

When I got back to the house, those two mooches were right behind me. They were still hungry. It's a bad idea to constantly feed wild animals. They tend to become lazy and lose the drive to fend for themselves, sort of like some people on welfare. If encouraged the animals will hang around where people are and mooch goodies and lose the ability to feed themselves.

There are times however, when winters are harsher than usual up in the mountains and food becomes scarce. Then I figure it's okay to feed them enough to keep them from starving. Deer are as friendly as dogs and will actually domesticate themselves if you let them.

The two does followed me to the house and waited while I went inside and filled two mixing bowls with rolled oats. When I opened the back door to take the oats out to them, they were right there at the door. First one and then the other stepped into the warmth of the kitchen.

I laughed and placed the two bowls on the floor. They nuzzled and sniffed cautiously, then began to eat. They quickly consumed the portions I gave them and shoved the bowls across the floor with their tongues as they licked the insides. I sprinkled a little salt in the palm of my hand and let each one have a taste.

Then I opened the back door and sent them both outside where they belonged. They had no desire to return to the cold but I insisted. Reluctantly they clattered down the back stairs and returned to the trees away from the frigid wind.

I was still angry at the way Rachel did an end run around me and brought those people out when I had expressly said I wanted no fuss. Because of the lack of it in foster homes, I cherished my privacy. In fact, Rachel was the only person I had ever completely opened up to.

I still was too restless to write and the only things available on TV were junk glorifying unrestrained promiscuous sex and brainless party music, neither of which I was then or am now into. So the TV went back off and I sat and listened to Chopin's Etudes mixed with moody blues and thought about what had happened.

The idea of wild flowers growing in the snow made me uneasy. I knew something had happened and I began to feel the first pangs of curiosity. Now, after the initial shock wore off, I decided to investigate the phenomena. It would have to be on my own terms, though. I definitely did not want any outsiders interfering unless they were invited.

My cell phone rang. It was Rachel. "Are you real mad at me?" she asked.

A feeling of sadness came over me and I answered, "I'm maybe a little angry, but I feel betrayed. I asked you to just let it go. Instead you brought those people out here and they treated me like I was the outsider in my own house." I stopped and thought, then said, "I don't want to talk right now." I disconnected.

I felt sorry for myself and struck out like a little kid. Ours had been a nice, quiet and loving relationship up to then. I thought it would end in a nice comfortable marriage. Okay, let's face it; I never was the adventurous type.

Animals liked me, and most people thought I was okay, if a bit bland. (Anal is how one guy described me.) I don't care for wild adventures and uncertainty, which is one reason I chose to become a seller on the Internet. I wrote nicely put together ads where Tab "A" goes into slot "a" and everything fits nicely together. Or else, I hustled my stock to local stores. My wildest speculations dealt with, "Will you be less unhappy if you don't buy my gizmos?"

Then along came this weird ... gift? Ability? I had no idea what to call it. There was nothing I could relate to anything I had ever experienced before. I felt threatened because of the strangeness of it all. Then curiosity began to take over.

When in doubt, retreat to the familiar. I sat down at my computer, opened a new file and listed everything, all the events prior to and since I took what I referred to as my "mystical movement in the outhouse." The list was short and told me nothing I didn't already know. I went to a polka party with Rachel. We danced, shouted and had a good time. I drank some mugs of apple cider not even slightly fermented and Rachel, in a fit of daring, drank two Cokes. (Oh the wildness of some of these Mormons.)

I took her home and we both saw the strange beam of light. I drove home and saw another beam of light, then found the damage to my plumbing. Since this was not uncommon in the wintertime, I saw nothing mysterious about a power outage or a furnace relay that failed. It sometimes happens when the temperatures get real low. The next morning I had to heed the call of nature and went to the outhouse to do it.

I touched the dried rose vine and later on it came to life. I felt a sort of tingle or vibration. Then afterward the thing came to life. How much later? I didn't know. I decided the next morning to try a controlled experiment just to see if the "coming to life" of the vine could be repeated. Part of me wanted to ignore the whole thing and hope it went away, yet I knew it wouldn't. First I figured this, whatever it was, happened for a reason. And second, I became more curious.

One time strange happenings may be classified as anomalies. Two or more times, as in the case of what I called in my own mind, "The Green Effect," and you have related events. It was almost midnight before I finally was tired enough to go to bed.

My last thought before drifting off into a troubled sleep was to use scientific methods while trying to duplicate the "green effect" with a step-by-step experiment based on logic. No superstitious mumbo jumbo whatsoever would be allowed.

During the night I dreamed of flying saucers that shot rays of greenish white light. Then a giant carnivorous tree came down and ate my propane tank and belched. I was glad when morning came. The desire for a new day wouldn't have been so acute if I had known what would happen later on.

I got up and checked my email. The first message was from Scientific Instruments, one of my biggest customers. "Forrest: Cold fusion will be a reality before my Colorimeter gets here. Get on the stick. I want it here yesterday or cancel the order. Signed: Ralph Pendergast."

Since I was not independently wealthy like Ralph, I called up the shipping records onto my monitor and saw it had gone out by snail mail two days previous. "It's on its way. If you don't get it tomorrow, Monday, call me. I put a PS; "I have something quite speculative on the front burner. You will get first dibs for being so kind and patient with me." Okay, so I get a little sarcastic at times too.

I showered, dressed, fixed a quick breakfast of instant hot cakes and went outside, all bundled up against the cold. My two favorite mooches were standing by the outhouse door eating fresh greenery. The outsides of the outhouse and the storage sheds were covered with blossoming wild rose vines and other greenery. The deer turned to look at me and went back to the important task of filling their stomachs. Right then eating was more important to them than a human with no food in his hands.

"Well," I said half aloud to myself, "I guess the whatever it is doesn't poison the animals." Just then a starved looking mamma skunk and her brood of two wandered into the back yard. She nosed around looking for something to feed her and her young. It surprised me she had young ones with her. Normally skunks gave birth in the late spring. Perhaps her calendar was out of adjustment. I returned to the house and brought out a few bits of dried fruit and a small saucer with two beaten eggs in it.

I advanced as far as I could before Mamma skunk arched her back and chittered her warning at me to come no closer. I set the egg dish along with the dried fruit down in the snow and backed off. They were cautious as they advanced to the food, sniffed then ate their fill. Mamma skunk and her babies went past me toward the house.

Skunks are very sociable animals if they sense friendly intentions on your part. I had learned to get along with the few skunks in the area because I didn't care for the consequences of doing otherwise. However, skunks in the house were a no-no, so I stepped over them and went inside. The door was closed firmly in their faces. The back yard had begun to look like a petting zoo.

I turned on the TV and got more bad news. There was Rachel's bishop blabbing to the cameras. Behind him in a semi-circle was a bunch of solemn old men in black suits. If Tommy Lee Jones had been on camera, it would have looked like a sequel to the movie titled "Old Men In Black – The Aftermath." I correctly assumed they were high up mucky mucks in the LDS Church. And there was Rachel to one side, looking very uncomfortable and unhappy. The bishop stood before the camera holding a potted plant.

It was the sprig of rose vine I had shoved into his hand. I regretted my impulsive anger. He was capitalizing on it. "At the present time we of the church are calling this a strange occurrence. We do not know if it is supernatural in origin or if some heretofore-unknown natural law is involved. There is no doubt in my mind it is definitely out of the ordinary." No kidding, genius, I thought to myself.

I started to change the channel when the sight of two deer eating the vines and the roses off the outhouse door stopped me. The television had changed and now showed my back yard and the two out buildings completely covered with green. Somebody was taking pictures and invading my privacy. This was too much. The picture changed back to Rachel and her friends.

Bishop Long seemed to almost be drooling. And let me tell you a drooling fat bishop is not a nice sight to behold. He kept babbling on and on about the need for what he called "modern miracles."

I looked at the image and told it, "Yeah, you and the Sunday TV crowd all need a ton of miracles." He probably didn't hear me. He beckoned to an unresisting but definitely unhappy Rachel to come up beside him and introduced her as the discoverer of this seeming miracle. The wild rose vine became upgraded a little more with each passing breath he took.

"Miss Nelson, how did you happen to discover this unusual occurrence?" a talking head asked on camera.

She blushed and answered, "I had to go to the bathroom." Her face was a bright pink as she looked down at the ground.

"Ah yes." Her answer stumped the well coiffed idiot. Then he tried again, "When did you see the growing rose bush for the first time, when you were coming or going?"

She looked at the fool and asked, "What did you just ask me?" Her face became an angry red. "You are getting too personal and it is none of your business." She scowled at the talking head and the Bishop jumped in.

"Ah, I believe the important question here is what she found, not what she was doing." Fat boy didn't make any points with her right then.

Suddenly she looked right into the camera and said, "Forrest, you were right. Please forgive me for blabbing." Her eyes filled with tears and she said with great feeling, "Oh, I am just so sorry." So, being the harsh and unforgiving soul I am, my heart turned to mush and I forgave her.

Then things went from bad to worse to horrible.

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