Chapter One

I will begin by telling you what happened to me. I became a victim of a demon.
I was born on May 3rd, 1960 in Duncan, about ninety miles south of Oklahoma City. My breakdown began when we moved to OKC when I was six years old. The City became my dad’s oasis. It became my mother’s hell.
The sickness existed long before I was born. My father’s family is crazy, violent and partial to alcohol. My mother’s family is depressed, suicidal and partial to alcohol.
There were hilarious times and horrifying times. It is difficult to choose where to start, because, well… mine has been no ordinary life.
Children who experience what I did do not usually survive beyond their teens. They die early in life from incomprehensible suffering. They perish like stray cats. According to statistics, I should be one of them.
My experience is not rare, my survival is.


I had not seen my father in over two years when he showed up at my mother’s apartment. He had a slick knack of disappearing when laws were broken and he was wanted for questioning. He had an even better ability to re-enter when the heat was off.
My father owned three nightclubs in Oklahoma City. His first was the Silver Sword, and then he opened The Red Slipper. After he met his second wife, they together, opened the Jade Club.
All were successful, but the Red Slipper had a reputation. On a rare occasion, my dad would take me with him to open up the place. At first, it scared me. It was so dark in there. But as the lights came on behind the bar, I fell in love with the atmosphere.
Bobby Orr’s hockey stick hung on the wall, along with an endearing note from F. Lee Bailey. At six years old, all I knew was that they were the objects that made my dad beam.
I learned to play pool by standing on a phone book. I watched the colorful smacking balls bounce around the most beautiful color of green I had ever seen. Chalking the stick was a chore, but after nearly poking my eye out once, I soon caught on.
It was a struggle to climb up on a barstool, but it was worth the effort. I sat at the bar and had lunch: popcorn, pretzels, peanuts and Pepsi.
As I grew older, I saw less and less of him, until he became a stranger, wafting in every once in awhile.
The last time I saw my father had not been pleasant. When I was thirteen, he broke down the door to our apartment and went straight to my mother’s bedroom. The noises were terrifying. The screaming, and punching sounds were followed by my mother’s whimpering, begging, groveling.
My dad had bailed himself out of jail that night. She promised him she would never seek alimony or child support again. Her lawyer was wrong. It wasn’t worth getting killed over.
Shortly after, he had to leave the state. It had something to do with a low-level mob deal involving an insurance fraud. Too bad, it involved burning a building with someone in it. That spelt murder charges. My dad became invisible for a while.
My dad had been a string of disappointments for me with a few indescribable moments of pure enjoyment. He could be kind, funny and like a real dad sometimes, that was the dad I missed. I tried to hold onto those experiences, even though he was such a mean bastard most of the time.
I was fifteen when I overdosed on narcotics. I was quickly killing myself and my mother didn’t know what to do to stop it. That is why what happened was not my mother’s fault. But it wasn’t my fault either.
I never figured out how he knew where we lived. My mother moved over fourteen times in between the time I was six and twelve years old. Yet, here he was, at our front door, with his undeniable ‘ah shucks’ charm. His modesty was convincing. His timing was incredible. My mother stood frozen, her mouth agape. Dick took the lead. He placed himself between my mother and father.
“You must be Gary Don, my name is Dick, I’m Patsy’s husband. Would you like to come in and tell us why you’re here? Patsy, honey, would you mind putting on a pot of coffee?”
This unfroze my mother and she scurried to the kitchen. I was still in shock at seeing my dad’s face. I retreated to the staircase, but poked my head around and caught him glance at me. I flew up to the landing. I could easily escape up the rest of the stairs to my bedroom.
I was small enough to remain hidden on the landing, and heard the conversation between my mother, my dad and Dick. Dick was the classiest, most even-tempered adult I had ever encountered. I wished I could stop hurting him and my mother. 
My mother sat down two cups of coffee on the dining room table where my dad and Dick sat. As she retreated a few steps back into the kitchen, Dick politely probed my dad. My dad had the right answer for every question.
He swore he was a completely different person. He had changed. He had no hard feelings, instead he was back to help. He was remorseful for being an absent father and he wanted to make things right. He was back for a reason; he had the answer to my problems. He had heard that I was in trouble with drugs and school and he felt guilty for that. He was so convincing, so….humble, almost shy
As I listened, I began freaking out with fear and excitement. I always wanted my dad. The last time I tried to live with him, it didn’t work out; he sent me back to my mother’s after a month. Now my dad wanted me! He wanted to save me, take care of me.
He lived by himself now. He was the manager of The Palace Hotel in the little town of Raton, New Mexico. The hotel was built in 1896. The ground floor was an elegant bar and restaurant. The two upper floors were hotel rooms no longer in use, except for a manager’s apartment. He was making very good money, he paid no rent and he had an extra room for me.
With a population of 6000, it was not a place to continue a lucrative drug business. Also, he would enroll me into the little high school and I could get my diploma. I could work in the restaurant in the evenings where he would keep his eye on me. Then, there was the horse. He would buy me a horse. And on and on and on.
The logic and sincerity of his argument was convincing. So that was it. An hour later, my bags were packed. I was going to live with my father in New Mexico.
That’s how in September 1975, my father whisked me away from my home in Oklahoma City, under the guise of saving me from my own demise. I was stolen and held captive in Raton, New Mexico for what seemed like forever.
My dog, Baron was coming with me, I refused to go anywhere without him. He was a tiny black and tan Dachshund. I got him free when I was fourteen, when I got back from Tulsa. To me, he was priceless. He was my best friend. He couldn’t have weighed more than ten pounds, but his heart was huge.
I talked to him about everything and he consoled me by nodding, and licking me on the cheek non-stop…or he would admonish me through his expressions and demeanor. I had lived with Dachshunds since I was seven, so understood their language pretty well. Baron understood humans better. We developed a rare communication that worked well for both of us.
Herman, our older dachshund had greeted my dad cordially. Baron couldn’t figure this out, he expressed his apprehension. He looked at me and conveyed, “Well, if Herman isn’t worried, I guess it’ll be Okay, right? Right, Susan?”
I was sorry I didn’t have an honest answer. I did my best to settle him.
“Sure, this’ll be fun, a whole new adventure!”
 As we drove west, toward the Texas panhandle, Baron kept the conversation going by his curious interest expressed by wide eyes and attentive ears. My dad amazed him with his knowledge of history, geography, geology, astronomy, world geo-politics, weather, music on the radio, literature, mechanics, religion and countless other topics. I knew he was faking his fascination with my dad. He knew he was doing me a favor.
There was not a dead moment in the air. An occasional “really?” expressed by me was enough to keep my dad’s mouth running. I was thankful for that. It kept my attention away from my jangle of emotions. As we drove through the night, I was conflicted, scared, excited, happy and worried. I didn’t know where I was going, or who was driving me there.
My dad’s jovial demeanor comforted me. He made The Palace sound like the perfect place for his little princess.
When we arrived, it was late, after 10pm., Baron was exhausted. I stood on the corner and looked up. I gulped. The three-story building was like an old gothic castle. It was a huge rectangle with the front corner cut back with a fifth wall about ten feet wide. This provided the entrance with two giant oak doors. The building took up almost an entire block. Being on a corner gave it even more significance. Baron was less than enthused by its foreboding appearance. I had to agree.
Dad ignored my hesitation. “Come on, you’re going to love this place!”
He pulled open one of the oak doors which had to weigh at least five hundred pounds. I was hesitant, but thirsty. Baron’s squirming had started to annoy me. I went forward filled with adrenalin.
The initial entrance was a small round foyer with a domed ceiling of cut glass. It was about six feet round. As I stared up at the beautiful little pieces of color, I heard my dad chuckle.
“See? I told you, there’s no place like this!”
Then I saw the true entry to the bar, a set of two small bat winged doors that swung back and forth. He pulled one doors back, beckoning me forward. He looked down at me with a tender expression.
 “Welcome home, honey, this is home now.”
As we entered the bar, I was dumbstruck. Baron was not. I stepped back in time, to 1896. The Palace was designed to attract the first-class travelers from the train station across Main Street and had been renovated to maintain it’s original mystique.
The bar took up half of the first floor of the hotel. It was the most captivating centerpiece of the establishment. The mirror behind the bar was the longest continuous piece of reflection glass in all the states, the brochure proclaimed. A brass foot rail extended the length of the long cherry oak bar A few feet behind was a waist high railing just like the saloons in old John Wayne movies.
The carpet was a deep royal red interlaced with black swirly patterns. Bright golden paper covered the walls. It was smooth and shiny with raised curly designs made out of felt or maybe even velour. God, I just wanted to reach over and run my fingers across it! 
The wall opposite the bar had windows that were quizzically narrow and impossibly tall. Lush maroon velvet drapes adorned them, parted in the center to provide a view of the quaint town just beyond the sidewalk.
I looked up at the ornate ceiling, which seemed a mile above me. It was covered with tiles of little angels that all looked the same, yet different. The angels danced across the entire ceiling until it curved and met the wall. I got dizzy looking at them.
“You can’t find ceiling tiles like that anywhere! My dad beamed. “They’re covered in pure gold leaf!”
I didn’t know what pure gold leaf was, but the word ‘gold’ impressed me very much.
He introduced me to the staff. I l blushed when he said; “This is Susie, my favorite little girl!” I had never heard that before. The whole crew greeted me warmly, all smiles and friendliness.  
I always paid attention when Baron got nervous but I chose to ignore him. I jostled him in my arms. My stern look at him stopped his squiggling, but his look back conveyed that I was stupid.
I, however thought, Okay, I have died and gone to Heaven! I was enchanted. My fascination with this magical setting made me feel happy; I was in the neatest place I had ever seen. I’m going to love it here!
On the first night, my dad led me around the ground floor. The restaurant was as elegant as the bar. To the rear of the restaurant, there was a large commercial kitchen. Off the rear of the kitchen, he showed, me a short hallway to the back exit. To the right, a huge staircase led to the two upper floors of dilapidated hotel rooms. A manager’s apartment had been converted from several hotel rooms connected together on the second floor, just above the entrance to the hotel.
Then we ended up back in the bar and sat at a table for two. Krystal, the head bartender stayed on for a little while longer after the rest of the staff were allowed to go home.
Sitting at the table, he ordered Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry. I had never had Cream Sherry before, but it tasted like candy with nuts and I had no problem going through numerous rounds in a very short time. Actually, I was hungry but I was too nervous to eat.
Baron, however, was ravenous. My dad fed him little pieces filet mignon and French bread with real butter. He played cute for my dad, sitting up and begging. He jumped up, putting his paws on my dads’ leg, wagging his tail like crazy.
I was a little befuddled until I caught his sideways glance that said, “I do not like this guy, but I gotta eat, I’m starving. You’re the one falling into his into his trap, not me.”
Ouch. “Baron, sometimes I wish you would shut the hell up.”
After having his fill, he settled into a wary sleep on top of my feet. I never worried about losing Baron. Where I went, he went, period.
I wasn’t aware when the bartender left. The bottle was on the table before I knew it; he kept my glass full. I was five foot tall and weighed 106 pounds. I had a lethal level of alcohol pulsing threw my entire body…and I had my daddy.
I was in a daze as I looked at him. Actually, it was a haze more than a daze. He was gentle. I was so at peace hearing the love pouring out of him and into me. I had never felt so safe. I could not believe that my life was actually turning out good for once. I fell into a dream and didn’t want to wake up.
But I was woken up… by my dad shaking my shoulder. I had passed out sitting up.
“Come on; let’s get you upstairs and into bed. I’ll bring the Sherry with us.”
As if I needed more sherry. I was so drunk; I could barely stand up. He pulled me up and started guiding me through this strange building. I had lost track of time. I couldn’t figure out where I was. I kept teetering. He picked me up and carried me up to my new home. I was so happy, swaying in his arms, but my head was spinning. The combination of swaying and spinning started to make me a little nauseous.
I heard Baron’s little claws clicking up the wide set off shiny wooden stairs. Half way up, there was a landing, which led to another set of stairs that ended on the carpet of the second floor. We started down a narrow, endless hallway with an endless amount of doors on both sides. As we passed door after door, my head fell back. I developed tunnel vision as I looked at the doors’ upside-down numbers. I felt sleep overcoming me as I listened to the soft tinkle of Baron’s dog tags. It seemed like forever before we stopped at the second to last door on the left.
I didn’t feel scared, I felt warm and safe. My dad was going to keep me. I was still in his arms when he looked down at me with soft, caring eyes. He smiled warmly. Then he turned off the light.
My father was a brilliant sociopath, which was not a good combination. He felt no guilt. He had complete disregard for others unless it benefited him. In the 1830’s this disorder was called “moral insanity”. I wondered why it was changed to sociopath. My dad was clearly morally insane.
That night, my father attacked me with such a maniacal force; there was no chance to change the circumstances. He laid me down on the floor and began kissing me all over my face until he found my mouth. He plunged his tongue deeply down my throat and I could feel his weight shifting on top of me. His hands went everywhere, until they found the buttons of my shirt, my pants. “I love you, I love you,” he kept repeating. He left no time for me to process anything before my pants were off and he was in me, still saying repeatedly “I love you.” I died in that instant, as I did over eight hundred times before my dad had to flee New Mexico.
There are no words to express the devastation and sheer disbelief of what I was experiencing. That night my eyes were clamped shut, barely allowing the tears to roll down my side-turned face until they found the crevices of my ear. It was OK though. I heard less.
 “You’ll sleep in here now,” he told me the next day. “After last night, you must know how much I love you…” I just walked like a zombie to the big bed and sat down next to him. I am his daughter. How could this be?
 This can’t be my life….this can’t be my life…the thought kept repeating over and over in my mind….this just can’t be my life! At fifteen, it seemed that I didn’t have much of a life to compare to, but mine had been no ordinary life.
He knew my need for love was so profound I would take it however I could. He knew the price I would pay. It was not about me, it never was about me. It was all about that motherfucker. Was I wrong not to see the future? Was I so stupid that I couldn’t see the signs? The devil has two faces. Dad wore a convincing mask and I saw it slip more than others did. I knew I was in the presence of evil.
My father forced me into a madness that tainted me in a way that is impossible to describe. He yanked my head off, turned it backwards and thrust it back down onto new crooked shoulders. He flipped my reality upside down and turned it inside out. Mind-bending events unfolded.
I experienced the inexplicable on a constant basis. My life turned to shit as his twisted worldview, his warped morals and ethics were shoved down my throat. At breakneck speed, I changed.
Baron wisely remained his cute, undeniably charismatic self. My dad fell for him hard.
The first moment we were alone, I looked at him. “How could you be so nice to him, you little traitor? Gawd!”
He was disgusted by the question. “Hey, I’m a dog. Dogs love meat, OK? Besides I was starving...
 I wanted to cry. “Yeah, but you didn’t have show him how much you enjoyed it. He’s in love with you now.”
 Sheepishly, he turned away and muttered, “Well it was filet mignon…what did you expect? You should’ve eaten too, you look green.” 
I did feel like shit, in fact I couldn’t remember feeling so bad. But still, I retorted. “How would you know? Dogs can’t see…”
“That’s a load of crap, Susan. Dogs are NOT color-blind. It’s a made up story by so-called humans, just because they’re jealous.”
 “Jealous? Jealous of what?”
After rolling his eyes, he shook his head. “Geez, Susan, everything! We can see further, we can smell better, and we hear waay much better. Finally yet most importantly, we’re smarter! And we can speak your language. We don’t in front of most humans because WE are too intelligent for that. Very, very few humans can talk, much less, understand dog language.”
 He won. “Okay fine. Go lick his feet, maybe you’ll get lobster tonight.”
He gave me his most impressive Screw You look I had ever seen. “You know I hate seafood.”
 God, hit me in the solar plexus. “Well, if you don’t like him, how come you were so cutesy-pootsy when he was feeding you?”
He was incredulous. He had never fallen asleep at night without my arms around him. Now he slept under the bed. I felt tremendous guilt over his resentment, which he made quite clear.
“What do you mean, I’m a traitor? You abandoned me! Last night I thought you were being killed, I understand a lot of human, but what I heard made me want to die! I’m scared, Susan! You are my life, I can’t stand this, I’m a nervous wreck!
With that, he started slinking away to his new home under the bed.
I couldn’t stand it. “Come back, you’re right! I’m sorry, Baron! We’ll be OK, I promise!
He turned and trotted to me, jumped up on my lap and laid his head on my chest. We were both crushed. We needed each other now more than ever. We were so hurt, confused and sad. It was all my fault; I had dismissed him from the time we left Oklahoma City.
I just hated it when he was smarter than I was. “Dammit, Baron the problem is, you always think you’re right.”
“Nooo, Susan, the problem is I AM always right, you just don’t listen. Shit, your dad is a dumbass! He adores me and I loathe him, he just doesn’t know it! Shit he doesn’t have a clue! He’s too stupid to see how much smarter than he is! That’s why I’m I’m going to use every trick I can to help. It should be easy, really, heh, heh, heh. Just remember, I don’t want to be here. But I don’t want to be anywhere that you aren’t, OK? Just hang on, don’t leave me, we’ll get through this. Just think smart, like me.”
If I had ever felt true love, it was at that moment. He was right. At that point, I left it alone and so did he. All that mattered was he loved me, thought I was an idiot, and forgave me all at the same time.




The Palace Hotel had become my home. It first opened in 1896; built to accommodate the first-class travelers from the train station across Main Street. The building took up almost an entire block. Being on a corner gave it even more significance.
I remember staring out the second floor window at that train station, wishing I could buy a ticket to anywhere.
When I was there in the mid 70’s, the train station was ragged, compared to the Palace. Even though the hotel closed down long before, the restaurant and bar were still viable and had not lost an ounce of its elegant mystique.
Hotel portion lost its attraction when people started using cars as a main source of travel.It was then, that the “old” Main Street was renamed 1st street and was replaced by the “new” Main Street a few blocks over. Several motels dotted the outskirts of town to accommodate the passing travelers.
The new Main Street sported a complete set of three stoplights I always mused as to why they were called Stoplights, when every night at 6 o’clock they all turned yellow. Four sides of the lights were set to blinking yellow.
I had this odd propensity, an urge, to combine descriptions of things that were called one thing, yet were really more than that one thing. To me they should just been called STELLOW lights and that’s what they became to me.
The bar became my favorite place to be. It had a unique character, all its own. I believe it was influenced by the energy of those who came to reside there. Endless people have passed through. The bar was willing but not able to reveal its untold history, witnessed by the wood and cut glass.
The atmosphere held secret memories going back to the Hotel’s beginning. I even heard there was a public hanging in the street between the train station and the Palace, and the bar became the focal point for the sightseers
Hours turned into days. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. My everyday reality was pretty much the same mixture of complete unexpectation.
I had a lucrative job, making gobs of money and I could drink pretty much all the time. I did not have to go to school. I could stay up late; learn all kinds of new things. I could sleep until I woke up, always in a drunken stupor.
About a month after my arrival, one day, my dad woke up in an unusually good mood
“Susie, we’re taking the day off!
Hmm, what kind of trick is this?
Things changed so quickly, he changed so quickly, I was always left on edge. I felt like I was walking around blind-folded.
His jubilant mood caused me concern, though I didn’t dare show it; I was learning.
Sometimes he would act like all nice and friendly, causing me to drop my defenses. I would slip and say something that he jumped, viewing it as a sign of betrayal. Mr. Nice and Friendly became Mr. “You little bitch, trying to get away from me! You owe me now, you little slut!
And so another endless session of trying to please him began again. These sessions could go on for hours, even days. I remained naked during these times, as did he.
Other times, he would become extremely angry and unpredictable. He sulked and got snippy with his words. He would beat me down with this behavior; I didn’t know when to expect a blow to the side of the head or a choke-hold and knuckles scrubbing on my noggin
“Ah, come on Suze, I’m just joshin ya! Here, let’s kiss and make up!”
After a month of this, I was a jumpy, suspicious basket case.
“Uh, what do ya mean, dad? What’s going on? Are we going somewhere? Why are we not working today?”
“Well, I have a surprise for you! Now get dressed, make sure to wear your boots. And your cowboy hat, you look so cute in that hat!
Oh my God, I hate surprises! And now he wants me to dress up like a cowgirl? Pervert
“Now hurry up and meet me in the office. We’re gonna go for a ride! Oh, and leave Baron here, I’ll have the busboy come check on him” He was out the door, practically skipping down the hallway.
Gulp. He kept his gun in the office…in the safe. We never went anywhere without Baron. And we’re going for a ride???
I ran to the toilet. I didn’t know whether to vacate my bowels or throw up first. I was shaking when Baron came to me.
“Susan, stay calm. Keep your eyes peeled for an escape route. Keep you knife in your boot. If you have to, grab his nuts hard, and twist! He’ll scream and drop like sack of potatoes! That’ll give you time to either stab him or find the gun and shoot the motherfucker. Then, come back and get me and we’re outta here! You can do this! You’ve got to do this! You can’t leave me with that demon!”
He was right. I now had a mission. I would save myself for Baron. I was pumped.
“Yeah, yeah! I can do this! I will do this! I’ll save you, Baron!” Again, I didn’t realize that he was actually saving me.
I pulled on my hat, and looked in the mirror. I pretended to quick draw my knife. I was ready.
“Ok, little man, I’ll see you when I get back!”
I bent down, held him tight and kissed him over and over.
“Now, stop that, Susan! Don’t start crying! Don’t let on that you know anything, get it? Remember, be smooth!!”
I walked out the door and sauntered down to the office. As I reach the doorway, I almost lost it, my knees buckled. Dad was digging into the safe’s interior. My view was blocked, but I knew I was going to die that day.
“Ah, here we go! Just grabbing a little cash for the trip!
Suurre, dad, suurre….
“Go on downstairs and grab a six-pack of Olympia. I know that’s your favorite.”
I couldn’t stand Olympia beer. It tasted like piss water. In a final act of defiance, I loaded the cooler with Coors.
I took three longs swigs of Crown Royal, and went back through the kitchen and out the back door to the sidewalk. I leaned crossed legged against the hood of his car and waited.
He came out, happy as I’d ever seen him.
Damm, he a good actor! Or maybe he’s just that happy to kill me….
“Hop in, we’re gonna take a ride down to Maxwell.”
Maxwell was about twenty-five miles south of Raton and had a population of about three.
“Dad, why are we going to Maxwell? Are we going to that National Wildlife Refuge?”
We often took scenic trips, so I gathered a drop of hope.
“You’ll see, get in so we can go! We’re gonna be late!”
My drop of hope evaporated. I replenished my fluid; I popped open a beer. He looked over at the Coors I was downing. I waited for his reaction.
“Ah Susie, you didn’t have to do that! I told you to get your favorite, not mine! But, thanks, pass me one of those.”
He just turned my ‘act of defiance’ into an ‘act of altruism’. Dammit, you fucker!! I never win!
We headed south on State Road 64, which turned into State Road 85, which then turned into Interstate Road 25 Why didn’t they just name the fucking road Inter/State Road 64-85-25? Adults were so stupid, sometimes.
I remained silent, sulking as I gazed out at the desert passing by. My dad began to whistle, as I began to plan murder.
“Hey, whatcha doin’ way over there? Come sit over here by me…
As he wrapped his arm around me, I looked down at his crotch. I began to see more of an opportunity. But my nerves were shot. I popped open another beer and burped.
By this time, we were half-way to Maxwell. I downed the beer and grabbed another.
“Whoa there, Cowgirl, not so fast! You’re gonna need your wits aboutcha!”
What in the hell was he talking about? I was trying to create a diversion, excuse to escape…disguised as having to go take a pee….
He started that damm whistling again, then broke off into a portentous croon: “♩Gonna take a sentimental journey, a sentimental joouuuurny home... ♩”
Yeah, journey home, alright, you fucking psycho!!!
In mid-croon, he stopped. “Hey, see that building down there?”
He was pointing at a huge dilapidated barn, about three miles down the road.
Yeah, dad, I see it alright…my final resting place…
“Uh, yeah I see it, what about it? Why do you want to go there dad, huh? Huh, dad!?”
He looked at me with a quizzical expression I rarely saw
“What’s the matter with you? You should be happy!”
I guess he was right about that. Soon, I would be out of hell and entering heaven.
As we pulled to a stop in front of the barn, I knew I had to make a move. I reached over to grab his balls, but he’d already begun pushing me to the other side of the car.
"Quick! Get over there! We don’t want this guy catching us.”
God, I really did feel like dying. Instead, I opened the door and placed myself defensively behind the open door.
But Dad motioned me forward. I slowly walked around to the front of the car. He put his arm around me in a “fatherly” sort of way and led me to the barn’s entrance.
I heard a shuffling noise, then a guttural cough, a wheezing from someone old, someone who had been around dust and hay for all his life. The creak of a stall door scared the crap out of me.

An old man appeared from the stall. He was tall, his big belly was held in by a pair of the oldest, dirtiest overalls, I’d ever seen. His head was huge, but oblong.

His thick white hair stuck out from under his Huckleberry Finn straw hat. A white walrus moustache dominated his deeply tanned and wrinkled face. He had to be at least a hundred years old, but his thick fat palms were almost smooth, like a child’s.
“Well, well, this must be the lucky lady, eh?”
I looked up at the clearest crystal blue eyes I’d ever peered into. All the sudden I felt safe.
But I was locked into terror. I couldn’t trust any of my feelings.
My dad spoke. “Susie, meet Will. Will, this is Susie. She doesn’t know why we’re here.”
Oh yes, I did, I was getting ready to be shot, chopped up into little pieces and fed to the pigs in that pen over there! I wasn’t stupid!
Will chuckled, amused at my wide eyes. “Well, then, I guess it’s time for an introduction. Susie, come with me.”
I had no choice, he wrapped his huge hand around mine, engulfing it in comfort.
We walked down to the stall where he’d appeared from.
“Susie, meet your new pony. She’s had a lot of names, but you should call her what you want to call her.”
My heart did at least six summersaults. There in the stall, stood the most beautiful Paint mare, her head turned towards me. Her eyes said “Call me Sugar”.
I squeaked, Sugar! That’s her name! Sugar!”
Will backed her out of the stall and lifted me up onto her back. She was nine years old and gentle as a lamb. I reached down and grabbed her neck, my tears falling into her mane.
I was so confused. I had just come from hell and entered heaven without being murdered!
Dad looked genuinely pleased. “Well, what do ya think, Suze? Think you can handle her?”
I didn’t answer. I just sobbed, “Thank you, thank you, thank you…”
Dad took out the money he’d retrieved from the office safe. He paid Will and arranged for Sugar to be trailored back to Raton. I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy, really, really happy.
As we drove back to Raton, dad started the usual teacher/boss/preacher drone.
“Now you know, Suzie, this is a big responsibility. You have to feed her everyday, look after her everyday. There are no days off with a horse, Susie.”
I didn’t mind nodding enthusiastically and thanking him all over again.
“Well then, why don’t you show me some of that appreciation, little lover?”
He unbuckled his belt and exposed his penis. He pulled his testicles out and settled them on top of his unzipped pants.
“Come on…” His hand came around the back of my neck and forced my face down onto him.
“Ah yes…now hold my balls…gently! Like birds eggs.”
For twenty miles, I never saw anything, but him. My head repeatedly hit the steering wheel as he pulled my hair, forcing my mouth up and down, up and down.
From then on, my dad referred to this as “Rolling Blow Jobs”. It particularly pleased him when truckers drove by. He always laughed when they honked for him.
Forever later, we arrived back in Raton.
I followed as Dad went in and checked on the bar and restaurant. It wasn’t too busy, everything had been handled by Crystal, dad’s top bartender; all was under control. I watched as he took most of the money from the till, while joking with Crystal. She knew she would get her bonus for keeping up the place while dad was gone.
Then he stretched and displayed his lazy, arrogant Cheshire cat’s grin. He headed up to the apartment for a nice long nap.
“Crystal, you aren’t going to believe this. I have a horse. Her name is Sugar.”
She nodded kindly. “Yes, I know, sweet Sue! You couldn’t have chosen a better name!”
“I didn’t, Crystal, she told me her name, she told me!”
“I believe that, Miss Susan! Stranger things have happened. Your dads happy too! He’s ordered New York steaks and lobsters for you two, later on tonight and then, he’s taking you out on the town!
You’re a good girl, Suze, you deserve it!”
The weirdness of my days, and nights never ceased. Some were weirder than others but they all were so very strange.
I went upstairs and found my dad snoring loudly, with his mouth gaped open. God, I wanted to take his dirty socks and stuff them down his throat and into his bloated stomach. I looked at his penis and thought of the knife in my boot…
I crept around to his side of the bed and looked at his alarm clock. It was set for 8:30 PM. This meant dinner would be at 9:00 PM.
For two and a half hours, I tried to decompress. Baron advised me to brush my teeth, which horrified me. I brushed them for at least a half an hour. I sat in the bathtub for a long time, with Baron lying on the rug next to me.
“How’s my breath?” I asked him.
“Just like an angel’s”, he replied.
Like a little girl, I dreamed about Sugar. “Baron, you’re going to love her!”
“Yes, I know I will, Susan, I already do. Maybe we can ride her out of here…”
All the sudden, I felt so old inside.
“Baron, I’m not a kid anymore. I feel so tired.”
He looked up at me with soul-filled eyes.
“Susan, you are a kid. But you can’t act like one now, it’ll get you killed. Then what? You just keep going, Susan, don’t give up! I’d never forgive you, if you left me like that! Don’t go there, sister! I would haunt you forever!”
I knew he was frazzled and exhausted.
“Enough with the empty threats, little man, there, there, calm down.”
I was dressed and ready for dinner before my dad woke up. As his alarm went off, I told him I was taking Baron out for a walk.
After ten minutes of strolling down the lonely sidewalk, we headed back. I lifted Baron to the hood of my dad’s car and pulled out a cigarette. Baron and I mumbled back and forth about how miserable we were. Then we plucked each other up with dreams of happiness.
I tossed my head up and blew a smoke ring. It was a trick I did that Baron loved.
“Do one inside the other! Do one inside the other, Susan!” He was begging, grinning. Nothing made me happier.
All the sudden, I became aware of the lights in the windows upstairs. I watched his silhouette lumber from the bed to the shower. I watched him as he preened and dressed himself for the upcoming evening.
“MY GOD, Baron! Do you think everyone can see me and dad like that?! Oh my God!!”
“Susan, at this time of night, I don’t think so. Your dad always turns off the lights. Besides, it’d do him good to get caught, even if we both die!”
His boldness caught me off guard. “Are you serious, Baron?!! Then why don’t we just kill him tonight?”
“Beeeecause, Weeeeeeeee don’t want to get caught! Ya dig?!”
I sighed as I watched my dad disappear from the apartment. After I heard his boots stomp down the staircase, I carried Baron in my arms back up to our apartment. He pretended to be asleep as I shut the door.
I met my dad in the dining room at nine.
After dinner, I was a little drunk, but not too much. Wine did that to me.
Before long we were hanging out at some cheesy piano bar on the outskirts of town with the rest of the crew. It was almost 1:00 in the morning. I had already been served two bottles of wine. I was perfectly normal; this was a common evening for me…until I stood up.
That was when the bar started spinning. My dad grabbed for me before I hit the ground. As he pulled me to him my head swayed. There was no stopping it. I threw up all that red wine onto my dad’s new suede loafers.
I was bent over making pathetic noises, as my dad patted me soothingly, telling me not to cry. He had no idea I was stifling a gigantic burst of laughter. Not only had I soiled his shoes, but I also convinced him that I needed pity. I peeked up at him. He had a pout on his face and his shoulders slumped.
I had difficulty forcing the evil grin off my face. I was drunk all right, drunk with power! For the rest of the night I slept next to the toilet, while he slept alone with his unsatisfied boner.
Sometimes it was the little justices, the wrongs made right that kept me getting up in the morning.
How could such a magical, beautiful, peaceful place such as northern New Mexico become such a mental and spiritual killing field? Anywhere, even Hell had to be better than this.
Years later, I sat transfixed in a movie theater featuring “The Shining.” I could not believe that the story was fictional; they had to know that they truly captured the evil so immediately, so fiercely …so… intimately.
AND, they recorded it on film for all to see. I don’t think anyone understood just how real Jack was, but I knew. I had lived with Jack, only his name was Don. I came to believe that some creatures were genuinely born or shaped to destroy others.
The next day, my dad jiggled me awake. “Come downstairs! I have a surprise for you!”
I was still green from the night before. God, not another surprise. But wait! I had Sugar! All surprises came at a price, but I was so in love with her, I wanted to go see her immediately.
“Come on! I’ve got something to show you! And bring Baron!”
That was definitely a good sign, as far as good signs went.
After getting dressed, we lumbered down the hallway. Baron smelled food; he ran past me and went down the stairs to the kitchen. He was slobbering and waggling, which pissed me off.
“Oh come on, Susan!! Please, at least let me enjoy some food!!”
“You’re right, Baron, I’m sorry….”
My dad had cooked up a breakfast for ten people, pancakes, bacon, sausage, grits, fried eggs, toast, hash browns…
My stomach turned at the smell. My lack of enthusiasm was apparent.
“Come on, Suze, you just need to get something on your stomach, then you’ll be fine! This is the cure for what ails ya!
I sidestepped. “Ok, dad, but can I get a cup of coffee first?” Actually, I needed some hair of the dog…
“Why sure! There’s a fresh pot in the dining room, go ahead.”
I watched Baron take control as I went through the swing door from the kitchen to the dining room. I headed straight for the bar. I had to decide in a hurry: Tia Maria, or Kailua?
I chose the Tia Maria and poured a coffee cup full. I downed half of it and went back to the dining room, topping off my cup with coffee.
By the time I got back to the kitchen, I was able to eat a piece of toast and a few bites of grits.
My dad was still goochy-gooing with Baron, who was hopping around in circles for more bacon. I watched this exchange. I stopped in mid-chew. I couldn’t swallow. My cheeks were swollen with uneaten breakfast.
I looked at my father, he was not aware. I felt a deep, deep hatred settle inside me; one I hadn’t felt before. My father was a monster.
Baron took one glance at me. In mid-step, he stopped his clown dance. No matter how much bacon or sausage was on the line, it was time for him to scoot out of site.
My dad gobbled bite after bite, and swallowed it down with the rest of his coffee. As he wiped his face with a napkin, he leaned back and looked upwards. He began to chuckle as he gazed at the ceiling. He bent his head back down to his plate, and kept on chuckling.
“We-hoo! Now that was a good breakfast! Heeyaw! Hee, Heh, Heh heh! Sure was!”
I didn’t give a damn what he was talking about or thinking about, I just didn’t care. I was already headed back to the bar.
This time, I had two coffee cups, each I filled to the brim. One with Kalulua with a splash of cream and the other full of Wild Turkey. I drank half of the Wild Turkey, I didn’t give a damm. I poured the rest of the whole concoction in to a huge glass, went back and topped it off with a little coffee.
As I re-entered the kitchen I was ready for war, life or death, it didn’t matter to me.
“There you are, I’ve been waiting!”
I began looking for chef’s knives; I knew there had to be at least one or two in the dishwasher’s bin….
But, again, my Dad knew how to change my emotions, just in time.
“Are you ready to go see Sugar? She was delivered this morning! Are ya ready?!”
That’s all it took. My mind was back-flipped into dreamland. Baron crawled out from underneath the chopping table, went behind me and stuck his face between my legs.
“Thanks, hero…
You, know, Susan, sometimes I wish you’d shut the hell up…!”
Then my dad said: “I’ve got something else for you Susie; you’re going to need it to take care of Sugar.”
What? What? My mind did not comprehend and he saw my confusion.
“Come on, follow me, you’re gonna love it!”
Uh…Right, dad, ‘I’m always “going to love it”… like I’m supposed to know what love is…
I heard Baron, right behind me: “Yeah, yeah, like you know what anything is, you stupid motherfucker”…his favorite and reserved moniker for my dad.
Chugga, chugga, chugga. Like a chain gang…we followed him at a prisoner’s pace until we were out the back door and onto the sidewalk.
And there it was. My dad’s arms opened wide, grandiose.
“See? See”! Here it is!!”
And yes, there it was, my own truck, a ’57 Ford Pick-up with three on the tree and a push button start.
My own truck! No fucking way! I was ecstatic. Baron hopped in beside me.
My dad got into his car, and through the window he yelled, “Ok, let’s go! Let’s go see Sugar!”
I’d driven tractors and motorcycles since I was eight, it didn’t take long to get the truck in gear. As I followed my father, I was beside myself, and Baron was panting so much, he fogged up the windows.
Not once did I think of driving on past my dad, towards the road headed to Amarillo. I could have, but it was not a thought in my mind, I needed to see Sugar.
Just before outside of town, there was a small dirt road to the right. It was a bumpy ride and dad took it slow. After about a half a mile, a small cattle farm appeared.
Further on, there were three or four long lots separated by plank fencing. At the gate of each lot was a small open shed. It was a clap-board lean to, with a corrugated metal roof.
Sugar was in the first lot, she saw me right away. I got out and ran, with Baron right behind me. Sugar hugged me like a long lost friend. I hoisted Baron up onto her back and they introduced themselves. I was in a dream. I was in heaven!!
Dad walked up with Jim, the owner of the place. He was a kind man and after meeting him, I knew I had a good place to get away from Dad.
I went back and cuddled on Sugar. I pulled some Twinkies out of my pocket. She heard the crinkling cellophane and went “Huh?”
Twinkies became her favorite treat.
Dad called for me, so I gave Sugar a long hug and a kiss.
As I closed the gate to her lot, I noticed a strange odor. It was sweet, but also sour and metally. Then, from a distance I heard the most awful sounds. It sounded like murder.
Dad was handing Jim money for the first months rent. “Susie, I’m paying for the first month, but after that, it’s your deal, got it?”
I was confused. “Uh, sure, Dad, no problem… hey, dad, what’s that smell?”
Jim stepped in quickly. “It’s mighty nice to meet you, Susie. I’m sure you and Sugar are going to be fine here. Don, I’m headed back to the house. Call me if you need anything.”
As he trudged away, I saw a sadness that I had not seen in any adult, since I’d arrived in Raton.
Baron hopped into my arms in one leap. The noises were getting to him too.
My dad turned to me, “Well, Susie, I guess you should see life as it is. You grew up on the farm, now you’re gonna see what happens after….”
Again, a turn in my stomach left me weak-kneed. What the hell does he mean? This can not to be good!!
“Come on. Let’s take a ride in your ‘new’ truck’!”
We went bouncing down the dirt road. A half a mile further, was a sharp turn to the right.
I made it just before crashing down an arroyo, what people in Oklahoma called a ditch.
I straightened the truck out and drove a little further down the road. Soon I was in site of a gigantic building, much like an over-over-sized barn, but different.
That’s when the smell of fear overtook me, a mixture of sweat, urine, tears, and blood. A heavy cloud above was a reddish-brownish color.
“See that big building over there? A friend of mine owns that. It’s a swine slaughter house.”
I went numb when I heard the word “slaughter”.
“Come on, you need to see this, you need to see what life and death is really like.”
I started whimpering. “Dad, I don’t what to see! I don’t want to know!!”
“Too late for that, Susie.”
For the first time, Baron growled at my dad, but dad chose to ignore him as I zipped him up in my jacket.
He clinched my jacket at my neck and started hauling me from the road, towards the building. The smell and noises became stronger and stronger. Now, Baron was whimpering.
As we reached the building, I saw a huge wooden ramp that led up into a barn opening, at least twenty feet wide and twenty feet above the ground. I slipped in pig shit as my dad hauled me up the ramp.
“Hey Joe! Joe!”, my dad hollered.
A man appeared at the top of the ramp just inside the building. The squeals were so loud; he had to yell even louder, back at my dad.
“Hey, Don! How are ya! We’re still playing poker at Woody’s tomorrow night!?”
“You betcha. Joe! Hey this here’s my daughter, Susie! I came to teach her a few lessons in life!”
We had reached the entrance and I looked at Joe. The sound of his chuckle was almost worse than the sound of the mayhem below. I instantly hated him, his grin was thin, his eyes were dark and they danced a lot; they were so threatening.
“Well, Miss Susie, this’ll be quite a lesson for you!”
My father handed my shoulder over to Joe. Joe began to lead me down planks, high above the maze of gates below. Pigs were prodded forward along the floor.
Then Joe pulled me closer to the doors where the pigs entered.
WHAP! I watched a pig fall after being struck on the head with a 2 by 4 by one man, and then shot by another man with a small .22 caliber handgun.
I pulled out of his grasp and began running, as fast as my wobbly legs would go. They were like jelly; I was running through a nightmare.
As I reached the entrance, I started down the ramp, but my dad’s arm stuck out and dropped me.
He lifted me by the front of my coat; his face was all I could see. For the first time, he spoke to both Baron and me.
“Remember that bacon and sausage you ate this morning? Well here it is. Here’s where it comes from…and don’t you forget it. Life is life until you die.”
He dropped me hard and ambled down the ramp.
Without turning around, he held hand to his mouth and shouted to me.
“Come one Susie, let’s get home!”
All I could think was, “Why did they have to hit that pig? They were going to shoot him anyway, why hit him first?”


I always had a skill for fitting in with people much older than me. It was now imperative to hone my adult veneer.
It didn’t take long before I was one of them. No longer did anyone see me as a child. No longer was it odd to see me up at all hours, wittily conversing with people over twice my age. I was no longer my father’s daughter. That conveniently faded out of everyone’s conscience.
It was alarmingly easy to charm or outwit any concern or disbelief because people had an innate need to deny things that made them edgy. On the other hand, maybe Dad just convinced them that I was a midget. I knew he was that good, both scenarios, plausible and disturbing. He could rationalize anything.
I became his most unswerving partner, his gopher, his confidante. People started to ask questions if I was not glued to him. I was expected to be sitting next to him with the ‘after hours’ crowd, ordering a double when the server came.
I didn’t have pay for pot, or cocaine, as Dad had the best available. I could get valiums anytime I wanted from my dad’s doctor friend. It was comforting to see Sugar every day, to feed her Twinkies when I had them. My truck was quite a status symbol for someone my age.
Dad went with me to get a driver’s license. All it took was me driving around the block with Fred, my dad’s friend at the Post Office. After skidding into a parking meter, I backed out correctly.
Fred was cool, he knew these kind of little dings happened all the time when the road was packed with two feet of snow.
Since I was able to parallel park without hitting anything, I strutted out with a ‘bonified’ New Mexican driver’s license. Changing my birth date was a simple little typographic error, never to be discovered.
After that, I took on the task of crossing Raton Pass to Trinidad, Colorado. Trinidad had the cheapest, best horse hay around. It was worth the twenty (thirty) miles, I guess.
As the crow flies, Trinidad was fourteen, fifteen miles away…as the crow flies…
At least fifteen miles of the road headed UP and DOWN and back and forth through the treacherous roads on the mountains... the ROCKY MOUNTAINS.
I learned to put chains on my tires, and carry bags of salt all times, to weigh down the truck for more traction…or to pour salt around a wheel that got stuck in a snow drift.
Up the mountain, down the mountain, curve after hair-pin, spine-tingling curve, I traversed the Raton pass into Colorado.
I always felt a fear on the way back to Raton. Six bales of hay in the back of my truck could be a tricky trick. On the one hand, the weight helped my tire chains dig into the snow and gave me traction. On the other hand, the weight could take control of my steering wheel, sending me deadly close to the edge of the one lane road that dropped off the mountain into oblivion.
It was an adventure I hated that I made every month. In a way, I hated learning to drive.
But on the other hand, it gave me some freedom that I hadn’t had before. And the restaurant kids I was allowed to hang out with thought I was pretty hot shit.
I burnt through two clutches in six months. “Sorry, Dad, not my fault.....he paid for the repairs without too much complaint.
If I could just wait…and survive, it had to be just a matter of time, I kept telling myself. I was right, eventually. That’s all I had to do, outlast the clock, the days, the months, the years.
I learned how to play poker but I wasn’t good at it. I became gifted at the horse track, though. It was the closest legal horse track to Oklahoma and Texas and drew many visitors during racing season, an attraction kept Raton alive. I learned how to predict winners by becoming a guru with the racing forms. People respected me and appreciated an occasional inside tip.
All of this is what my dad considered LOVE. He and I drinking Busch beer while sitting in some elite owners box, no more than twenty yards from the starting gate. I will admit that I did enjoy that. But by then, I was an adult, not a child. I was not a daughter. I was my father’s companion.
Then there were the frequent ski trips to Taos or Red River or Angelfire. There weren’t many children on the slopes since we normally skied on weekdays. We would arrive around 10:00 in the morning and head back at around 3:00 in the afternoon. That was more than enough ski time, as all of the resorts were less than 80 miles away. Sometimes a crowd of six or eight of us would go, sometimes just Dad and me.
I always looked forward to getting drunk on the mountain from the wine in my goatskin. These ventures never failed to entertain. As if on cue, someone would put the wine to their lips, gulping that one gulp that threw them into stupidness. That’s when the fun really began. Watching perfectly sane adults get completely shit faced and turn into Jean Claude Kili was priceless! Limping down the mountain became a frequent mode of travel.
Ahh, the memories, I still smile when I think about the time Dad swerved off the main trail, mounting a young juniper tree at 30 miles an hour. To maintain his coolness, he laughed with the rest of us. I was laughing harder on the inside. He was injured more than he realized. But I knew. He was going to be out of commission for at least a few days. The black eyes, raging headache and torn groin muscle took the Casanova right out of him. There were many other hilarious shenanigans but none made me laugh as hard and long as that one.
I became a pretty good skier, easily racing past most people. Then I took to choosing the expert Diamond trails, the ones that made the experts leery. I was confident Dad would follow. He had to, he had no choice. His arrogance and self-centered confidence forced him to beat me, to out-ski me, to rule over me in all things. I snicker when I remember this. I was picking up ways to beat him at his own game.
“Are you sure? Are you sure, Dad? Should we really try this one? I’m game if you are, Dad! You wanna, Dad? Huh, huh, you wanna?” There, I got him. Sometimes he was so fucking easy. On the other hand, maybe I was getting savvier.
I looked over the edge and nearly peed my pants. This was going to be a blast. Finally, I pushed off and slowly eased into a confident rhythm, going back and forth across the slope. After twenty yards or so, I slowed and came to a stop. I looked up at him with a huge grin and gave him the ‘hi’ sign.
I could see his face turning red. My grin got bigger. I could even see the sweat wetting his sideburns. It was five degrees outside and we were 11,000 feet above sea level. The man looked like he just stepped out of a sauna!
God, it felt good to be winning. The danger of going down a forty-degree slope with deadly caverns and crevices didn’t faze me a bit. I had never been happier to be in so much peril! This was nothing! I risked it all and tore down the slope another thirty yards then slowed to a stop and let out a whoop. “Wow! That was so cool!” I yelled up at him.
I allowed him a few seconds to gather himself before looking up to see where he was. He was bent over, fiddling with the bootstrap on his right ski.
“Dammit!! I knew the guy at the ski shop didn’t set this right!” he lied. Then he took off the ski and began to act like he was troubleshooting in earnest.
After a few minutes of this, I yelled, “Want me to go ahead? Or do you want me to wait? You want me to go get ski support? Maybe they can fix it!”
“No, they’re a bunch of dumbasses, just like the ski shop guy. I’ll fix it. You go on, I’ll catch up.”
“Are ya sure? I could walk back up and take a look at it for ya!” Now, I knew this would do the trick; this would really piss him off.
“Goddammit! You think you can fix it if I can’t! Go ON!! I’ll meet you at the bottom!”
I apologized and shrugged, trying to appear as sincere as possible. Then I turned and headed down the mountain.
I beat him, I beat him!! Ha ha ha! Whoo hoo! I’m free, I’m a bird! I’m flying! I’m flyyyiiiing! NOW THIS IS LOVE!! God I LOVE being alive! I’m finally flying! I’m really…flyi…. Whoa…uhh…. Hey…. I really AM flying. My vision was blurred and I possibly hit forty to fifty miles an hour, as I sped in a straight line down a very steep mountain. I knew I was going way too fast and far too reckless to survive this for much longer.
My smugness and gloating sank under the solid chunk of ice that had taken up residence in my stomach. My surroundings assured me that my complete and utter terror were appropriate. Dammit! Holy Shit! Oh MY God!! I might die, right here, right now!!! I’d gotten so absorbed with the possibility of accidentally killing him, that I forgot about me! I don’t want to die!
I was in a full-blown, out of control, complete panic. Panic. That word started rolling around in my mind. Oh yeah, I remembered now! At the beginning of the season, I was required to take a safety course with the rescue instructors. The first thing they said and repeated constantly was, “Don’t Panic!”
I went back over what I had been taught and began to make longer S turns across the slope, crossing back and forth horizontally until I finally lost all momentum. I pushed my ski poles into the snow and leaned my armpits into them. Whew, wee.
As I looked out across the horizon, I could see peeks that seemed at least a hundred miles away. As long as I looked at them, I was OK. But the moment I looked down, my legs turned to rubber and I couldn’t breathe. I was afraid to close my eyes because I would surely go into the spins and fall off the mountain. I looked at the sky and tried to think of puppies and kittens.
My trusty old survival mechanism slowly woke up and began to sputter and chug. Soon it was purring steadily. It poured sanity into me like warm syrup, which began to melt my frozen stomach. “Sit Down you Idiot! Take a breath! Suck on your goat skin, now!!”
The slope was so steep, it seemed like I was sitting in a lawn chair. I tilted the bag back and squirted the wine into my mouth, not missing a drop. Then I removed the cap and took a long gulp. Then another gulp. Then another.
Time for a cigarette. I inhaled deeply and it hurt my lungs. Aah, finally! A warm calm sensation entered my brain and didn’t stop until it reached my toes. Another gulp, another puff. Geeez, this is heaven!! I LOVE this! It’s beautiful up here!
I pulled out a joint and coughed while lighting it. After a few deep hits, I was at peace with the world. My situation was not so grim. What was I thinking? Sheeeit!! What is my problem? I’ve done this a million times. I started laughing as I looked down at the mountain of death. God this is funny! I laughed uncontrollably at the sky now. And when I looked down, it was kind of fun! “Whoa there pardner, steady yerself!”
My reality was wonderful now! The mountain had turned into a kiddies’ slope, easy as pie. I could ski down as far as I wanted and then take another break. It’d be great fun! I may die, but then I may not! I could even take my skis off and walk down, but that wasn’t really an option. The chance of flying into oblivion was what made me feel so alive. It’s what made it so fun, so worth it.
After an hour or so, I was sipping on my third cider and rum. The ski lodge was the usual walls of glass meeting at the top of the A-Frame. Out of the corner of my eye, I couldn’t miss the bright red rescue jackets walking towards to lodge.
My dad was still cussing the ski shop guy and was demanding to be unescorted at that point. I quickly looked in the opposite direction towards the deer head over the fireplace…Ahh, how nice…
As he walked in, I feigned fascination, relief and camaraderie.
“My God Dad, I heard there was a white out up there! How in the hell did you make it?”
And so began the circle of himself. Perfect. I would listen to every word of his bravery and courage, just as long as they kept those ciders coming.
Heading back to Raton was an adventure in itself. The driving was treacherous on the way back through the Cimarron canyon. The one lane road snaked through tremendous palisades on one side with a steep cliff on the other, not much room for error. My choice was to shut my eyes and puke or keep my eyes open die of a heart attack.
It was a live or die roller coaster. I loved roller coasters! One tiny swerve and you could be meeting Gabriel, or Michael or some other big shot from heaven. That’s why is was so exciting. Now you live, now you don’t!
I felt so lucky and invincible every damn time the road finally got wider, and the canyon faded into calm rolling meadows. I always felt a sense of indestructibility. I felt like I had just went sky diving from fifty thousand feet. I was confident when the main chute failed. With steady hands I cut it away and pulled the string of the pussy little extra chute. I landed perfectly. What, me worry? I laugh in the face of danger! Yes, it truly was good to survive
Yet, in the deepest place within me, a peculiar churning never ceased. A thought kept screaming at me and would not shut up. It repeated constantly: EVERYTHING IS ALL WRONG!
That’s when I knew that reality was not lost on me. This truth was my own; no one would see it, hear it or know about it. I swore I secretly I would hold onto the truth. I swore that I would remain sane. I made a commitment to myself to do anything to live.
My Dad was in love with me. I swore right then and there that I would not let it kill me. I knew what I was in love with. I was in love with survival.



It has been proven that it does not take long for the “Stockholm Syndrome” to set in. When a person is taken captive, they begin to identify with their captor to survive. The victim is powerless. They must rely on the kindness of their captor to live. The threat of perishing is real and survival requires doing anything and everything to please their abuser. After I arrived at the Palace, I was trapped and acquired this syndrome immediately.
I was bewildered at how quickly I accepted that the world was not what I had conceived. I was swiftly convinced to believe the unbelievable. Artificial acceptance gave me some peace. The nasty little compromises provided some safety. security Surrender allowed me a time to disappear. sense of and gave me some opportunity to relax. But my instincts told me there was no going back; there would be no more color. Everything became a graveyard gray.
Rationalization was a powerful tool and alcohol became my armor. Somehow, it kept me alive. Denial was the most cherished gift alcohol gave to me. This was reinforced that first night we arrived in Raton. The next two years would have driven me entirely insane, but alcohol provided an escape; it became my savior.
From then on, I willed my eyes to remain open, to laugh at the insanity. My smile became fixed. I began to accept extreme and profound acts of evil as if they were as normal as brushing my teeth or taking out the trash.
I learned to agree with everything my father said, but I certainly did not believe everything he tried to drum into my head. I came to believe just enough of his bullshit to remain safe in the realm of his reality, to appear legitimate when I nodded and agreed. Yet, I had to limit how much I believed to stay one-step shy of losing my sanity. This was extremely difficult. Any hint of disbelief was met with a rant that sometimes went on for days. Nodding and appearing to agree with him was usually enough to keep things bearable.
As time went by, things slowly began to take on the appearance of normalcy. Repetitiveness had an uncanny ability to change my perception. As days went by and nights went by, I started to think my life was normal and I even felt somewhat safe again. It became normal to take a few slugs off a pint of Seagram’s 7 in the morning before homeroom.
My dad was amazingly powerful. With a small intimate murmur in her ear and a peck on her cheek, the blushing school counselor was all his. An understanding was reached. I was much too intelligent for such remedial education as high school. It became normal to be choking on my dad’s penis at 1:00 in the afternoon when I should have been in art class, learning the skill of using pastels.
Since I wasn’t in school anymore, it then became normal to lumber downstairs in the morning to serenely drink my coffee with Kailua or Tia Maria or Wild Turkey. Early morning was a golden time for me. He would be unconscious for at least three more hours. I could do what I wanted which was to drink and think in peace. It made me giddy and happy to have so many delightful choices behind the bar and they were all for me! Soon the bar became my favorite place to socialize...and since my dad managed the establishment, it didn’t matter that I was just fifteen.
I was no longer in an ordinary place. I was at the Palace. I was no longer in my time. I was an adult. I was no longer a member of my social world. I was no longer my own, I was his. I stepped into a drunken delusion that I was sure would never end.
Being a sociopath, Dad did not possess the inherent human qualities required to form natural caring bonds with other people. He did not understand what healthy relationships were, it just wasn’t within him. As a young boy, his family learned to fear him, as he was ruthless in pursuing self-gratification.
At an early age, he recognized the distance developing between him and others. This singled him out in a negative way and he understood that was a disadvantage. He found an easy fix. He started watching others interact and practiced these exchanges himself.
As he grew up, he refined a persona that appeared perfectly normal. His face was handsome and he had a charisma that drew others to him. However, he never changed inside; he never stopped feeding his darker, true character.
He molded lots of tricks and forms of manipulations into his overall personality.
His charm and self-confidence were solid weapons. Accompanied by his genius at intellectual deception, he was a very dangerous man. What really scared me is how he appeared to be such a nice guy.
Raton was a small town and most people thought Don had more friends than anyone else. When he walked into a room, he drew people around him who were easily influenced by his outside self, which he spoon-fed in the form of friendliness and generosity. In truth, he was completely alone.
He had no peers. People were not stupid; they had just never encountered a force so subtle, intelligent and so harmfully undermining. Every time his corrupt ability to appear normal was successful, he grew more confident and just got better and better at fooling people.
They never would have believed the face of pure evil underneath. He was so convincing. In fact, most people bragged when Don, himself, invited them to the hotel after closing time to sit in the Casino room to drink, smoke and play poker.
The casino room was special It resided within the bar but was separated by an eight foot wall. The lower half was wainscoting that was a deep cherry red. The remaining portion was made of the original colored glass held together by lead. The half-wall jutted away from the outside wall and slowly curved like an oval until it gave way to a small entrance. The room could comfortably accommodate up to ten people. It provided privacy and privilege for its guest.  The other patrons in the bar could see the silhouettes and hear very expensive liquor in glasses clinking together, followed by rounds of haughty laughter.  Its presence left the rest of bar with a slight feeling of envy.
 Don was unique and could seduce the most pampered clients, even the stars passing through on their way to Aspen. The men enjoyed his easy presence and welcoming compliments. It was his invisible scent that captivated the women. His aroma permeated the air before he arrived at the table.
A blend of old spice and talcum powder mixed with expensive after-shave highlighted his clean breath that held a hint of rare scotch and a trace of sherry. This blended with the confidence that exuded from his pores. It was if he owned the Hotel. In fact, everyone thought he did and he never led anyone to believe otherwise.
Then it was my turn. Throughout the evening, I completed his persona. I provided the most attentive care to everyone’s wishes before they were even aware of them. I had quite a talent. As if clairvoyant, I would place a new pat of butter on the table just as the patron glanced down at the roll that it would accompany. To ask for water was impossible, it was already provided. With a sleight of hand that made me appear invisible, I tended to their every need.
I became aware that treating them with such delicacy and grace was rare and this was proven out at the end of the night. The tips I earned usually equaled what most adults were used to paying for their monthly rent.
Everything was fake. He was fake, I was fake, the whole show was a big lie.
With Baron, it was different. Dad’s eyes sparkled when Baron greeted him at the door. They would sit and take a load off, catch up on the day’s events. I don’t think my dad ever had a best friend in his life.
Baron was the closest he came to experiencing an equal exchange of unconditional love and acceptance. He adored that dog and Baron made him think he loved him right back. My supernatural, all-powerful dad was fooled by a dog.
Every afternoon, Dad would take Baron on the short walk to the Post Office and newspaper stand. Baron really did give dad a softer appearance. He was not harsh with him for the most part.
The only time he beat Baron was when Baron got into his pot stash and ate about a half ounce of very expensive weed. He stopped spanking Baron when he realized Baron was too high to give a shit.
It was getting close to Christmas. After four months alone with my dad, he announced we were going back to Oklahoma City for the holidays. I would be staying at my Mom’s house for about four days.
Vague intermittent questions began drifting through my head. Soon they became concrete and persistent. Why do I have to come back with him? Why can’t I just stay in Oklahoma City with my mother instead of coming back to Raton with him? What if? Hmm… I had been brainwashed but I wasn’t brain dead. Over and over and over, I tried to figure out a way to get back home for good.
I never learned how to use pleasing him to my advantage. I never knew when it was best to ask for something he probably wouldn’t allow. Would he be more compassionate after a ‘session’ in which he had been particularly satisfied? Or would he detect my attempt to gain some ground over my situation? He interpreted this as me thinking I could control him and even a hint of a thought of that was preposterous! If that were the case, he became super-pissed off. How dare I think I could manipulate him?
I had tried this several times with mixed results. It really depended on what I was asking for, on what his mood was, and what possible advantages he could gain out of the situation. On the one hand, he could get mad and stay mad, using it against me for days, until I practically begged him to do some despicable act that I had absolutely refused before.
On the other hand, he would relent and let me have my way. This was always accompanied with a that stupid, smug cat’s grin. I was a parakeet in a cage His grin silently stated that I would get my way now, but he would get his way later by performing some despicable act that I had absolutely refused before. 
This time it was different. I wanted to go home. I did not want him to kill me, which was a serious concern. It was one of several consequences of letting him know I wanted to leave him. However, he beat me to the punch.
One particular afternoon, I got out of bed to get dressed. Dad was casually smoking a cigarette. We were going back to Oklahoma City in three days.
“I bet a part of you wants to stay back there, huh?”
Luckily, I was facing the closet; he couldn’t see the shock and fear that was contorting my face.
I struggled to keep the tremor out of my voice. “Umm, I’ve thought about it once or twice, why do you ask, Dad? Do you want me to leave?” I just said this to throw him off but instead he counter-punched even harder.
“Hell no, Susie, that’s not it! Of course, I want you! I love you! It’s your mother; she doesn’t want you!”
OK, now my irritation was overriding my intimidation. I turned around as I buttoned up my shirt. The look on his face made me nauseous.
“What do you mean, she doesn’t want me?”
“Oh, yeah, she and Dick want some time to themselves for once. She is even talking about sending Paul out here next summer so they can start traveling, one less kid to take care of, ya know? You are going backwards Susie! They want less, not more!”
Paul? My younger brother, here? That threw me into a spin.
He giggled which made me hate him to the deepest depth within me. Really deep hate.
“Here, call her! Ask her if you can come back home!” he gloated.
“Right now? I have to get ready for….”
“No, no, no! Right now! Call Her!”
He pulled his address book from his nightstand.
“Here’s the number. Call her! Now!”
I looked at the rattlesnake the phone had become. He was trying to shove it into my hand. I refused to take it from him. I had no choice. He grabbed my hand and slammed the snake right down into my palm. I took the receiver and gingerly placed it to the side of my head.
“Here, I’ll even dial it for you.”
Then he relaxed and leaned back against the bed board. I watched him light a cigarette as the bbbrriiinngg startled me a second time, then a third. Just as I thought I was going to get out of this hallucination, I heard a voice.
“Hello?” It was my mother, my sweet, sweet mother. Her voice was comforting and I felt like crying.
As cheerful as possible, I finally spoke.
“Hi, Mom, it’s Susie!”
“Thanks, Mom, it’s good to hear your voice too.”
“Yeah, I heard we’re supposed to have a white Christmas, that’ll be fun.”
“Umm, hey Mom, there’s a reason I called. Dad and I were just sitting here talking and, well I thought maybe I come back and live with you, does that sound good to you?”
I watched Dad stifle a laugh as I juggled the phone until it finally came out of my hands and fell to the floor. I picked it up in slow motion. My mother was not aware. She didn’t know I had missed part of the conversation. She was still going on when I put the phone back to my ear.
“…and so really, Susie, that’s why I think it would be best if you stayed with your Dad.”
I had heard enough of the conversation, more than I cared to. I looked at my dad. He was sitting on the edge of the bed…naked. His chin was relaxed in his palm. I looked at his smug grin and raised eyebrows. He was gazing at the ceiling, revealing the mockery of a twelve year old. He looked like he was going to start whistling some stupid little tune.
I looked at the receiver, no longer a snake. The danger was gone. The damage was complete.
“Yeah, Mom, if you say so.”
“No, I’m not hurt, stop it! I understand!”
“I love you too. I’ll see you in a few days.”
My dream was over before it had begun.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned the truth about why I wasn’t allowed go back home. My father had called my mother for weeks, on a regular basis, filling her with all sorts of erroneous information. He told her that he was eavesdropping on my phone calls. I was making plans to obtain drugs over that holiday in Oklahoma City. I was setting up connections and planning to start back in the drug business. They were lucky he found out about it when he did because I would probably ask to stay home. It would be best for her to say no if they were to keep me out of trouble.
Of course, when the moment came, my mother was courageous and did as my father told her. Too bad her decision was based solely on lies coming out of the most self-serving individual on the planet.
I was glum. There was no cheering me up. What a way to end the year. For the next few days, dad left me alone, only occasionally and politely asking simple stupid questions like “Hey, Susie, do you mind riding in the back on the way to Oklahoma City?”
I was in such a shit-hole of self-pity; I didn’t really understand what he is saying. Then my brain caught up and repeated what he had just asked.
Doooo yoooouuu miinnd sittttiinnng iiinn theee baaaackk seeeat?
Hubbbba jubbba jubbaa! I sat straight up. “What did you just say?”
“Well, you know that guy Matthew, the one who works at the Post Office, the Christian guy? His parents live just outside of the City. He’ll split the gas if I give him a lift. But you’ll have to sit in the back.”
Matthew wasn’t creepy, but he was weird. He was sort of an Aminish guy and kind of girly. He was definitely committed to the Lord and that actually relieved me, considering all other judgments I concluded about him. I was sure he had never had sex before, hell he probably never even masturbated.
He looked like he had never shaved because he never had grown enough of a beard to require it. That, of course, could have been the Amish in him; I wasn’t sure. He didn’t wear a funny hat, but his clothes were plain and old fashioned, just like those Amish people. I didn’t have anything against Amish people; they just seemed to live in a polar opposite world from mine.
Now I thought to myself, This could be a trick or this could be a gift from God, and since he was a Christian guy, I went with the latter.
I brought forth the most uninterested expression that I could muster. “Sure, Dad whatever, I don’t care what we do.”
“Aah come on, Suze, it’ll be fun having some company. It’ll make the time go faster!”
Amen to that. “I don’t care dad, I really don’t. I don’t mind sitting in the back seat… Baron will keep me company.”
Oh my God! For all his brilliance, he can be so stupid! He really is a fucking idiot! Hmm….or maybe I had developed into a very good actor. He really had it in his mind that I actually enjoyed ‘rolling blow jobs’.
He really thinks I like banging my head on the steering wheel for half an hour?! Being watched by every a big rig that drove by?! I felt so sick; I wanted to puke right in his face.
The day we left, I hopped into the back seat. I felt like a temporary pass to Heaven had landed in my lap. “Please, God, Please God. Don’t let him change his mind!”
Baron was elated I escaped the front seat but he was wary of Matthew. He looked at me with a question mark on his face.
One of his eyebrows, the left one, arched and his left eye widened a little. His right eye lowered into a squint. Then he started the head turning towards the object in question. First at me, then at Matthew, then back at me, and so on.
Finally, I shrugged my shoulders and gave him my best “I don’t have a clue” look.
He gave his normal response to my ignorance. He lowered both eyebrows until they met in the middle and formed a V.  He squinted at me, conveying his annoyance.
.“Ok, Susan, you know I want you back here with me, but are we’re going to have to travel with this fruitcake? The whole way back to OKC? God when are we going to get out of this mess, Susan?”
“I don’t know Baron, I really don’t know. I didn’t pick the fucking passenger! Give me a break!”
It wasn’t the answer he was looking for. His ears fell limp as he dropped his head between his paws. He was so sad. He looked at me as if I had crushed his world.
“Sorry little man, out of my control,” I confessed with a slight shrug.
My complacency was met with loathing. He then put on a disrespectful display of genital licking and chewing, accompanied with nasty snorts and snarls.
I turned to and looked out the window. Eeeuuuw, that is so gross! I didn’t dare let him hear me.
When he finished his act of personal hygiene, he came over and settled on my lap Then he licked me precisely on the lips, fervently.
“Geez”, I can’t do a damn thing right!! Why don’t you just find someone else to love?”
Exasperated, he looked up at me. . That was not a choice for him, he loved ME. I’d stabbed him in the heart with my words. I was sorry I’d said that to him. My tears fell onto his head, his ears...
And so, he forgave me…again. His eyes softened and went to half-mast. He crawled into my jacket and I was all his again. I fell asleep in the comfort of his soft, little bundle of love.
As we crossed the Oklahoma state line, the snow started to come down fast. Christian Matthew decided it was time for a little bible study, which was fine with me. It was getting nasty outside. I don’t remember what he read, but the more it calmed me down; the more it irritated my dad. I loved it and Baron had to stifle his laugh.
When we arrived in OKC the snow was at least a foot deep. Dad dropped me off at my mom’s and then headed to Duncan where my grandparents still lived.
After Herman, the family dachshund, and Baron squared off and chased each other all over the two-story condominium, things settled down. Dick took my bag upstairs and Paul and I started false punching each other. Paul was the youngest and was closer to me than my older brother and sister. As we goofed around, I felt so happy and so sad. I was exhausted and wanted the day to be over.
But then my mom called up to me into the kitchen. She handed me a plate with a ham sandwich, some potato salad and my favorite lime-green jello with the marshmallows on top.
She hugged me again. I hugged her back even harder.
“You need to eat, Hon.”
She was right. I was starving. After wolfing down every bite, I leaned back in the chair. My body commenced digestion. When that happens, I get a soft grin and my eyes gloss over. All the energy in me is concentrated on devouring calories. My eyes began to close and snoring was soon to follow.
My mother saw the telltale signs and helped me up the stairs. Still, being my Mom, she made me brush my teeth. I probably wouldn’t have if I had been that tired in New Mexico. I slept hard, dreamless. I was allowed to sleep in, so I didn’t wake up until around 10:00 am the next morning.
I was startled, no confused was a better description. It took at least an entire minute to orient myself. Reality check, one, two, three….reality check, one, two, three… OK, I am getting it now. I am in Oklahoma City at my mom’s, I am not dreaming, and I am not insane.
I scanned back over the last twenty-four hours. I felt like I was on another planet; planet good and friendly, not planet dark and evil. I was determined to make the best of every moment. I would not dwell on reality.
I got dressed and ambled down the carpeted staircase. As I entered the living room, a welcoming voice boomed out.
“Well there she is, Miss America! Hey sleepy head, your mom’s got French toast and bacon waiting for you.”
I smiled and walked over and gave Dick a hug.
“What in the heck, Dick? What is all this stuff?”
One entire wall in the living room was taken up by the coolest, most fascinating electronic equipment I had ever laid eyes on, except on Star Trek. There were reel-to-reel tape recorders, input devices, output devices, recording and playback mixers, phonographs, equalizers, hell, I don’t know, humidifiers! It was beautiful!
As Neil Diamond played, Dick hugged me back, “You like it, Sue?”
“Oh Dick, this is amazing! Do I like it? Shoot! I love it!” Music was one of the first things Dick and I bonded over. I was already making bootleg cassettes off the radio when we met.
Even though it was gray and cold, that afternoon I decided to go for a walk. I brought Baron with me. He hated being cold and was comfortable zipped up in my coat. The trees kept moaning, their branches were at the limit of breaking off from the weight of the new snow. As we walked along, so many memories came flooding back to me.
Hell, in this condominium complex alone, we had moved three times. My mother liked to move. She had a full time job at a clinic doing X-ray and lab stuff. Because dad was a total deadbeat and his shit rolled down hill, staining everyone in its path, my mom had to get a second job. In turn, we didn’t get much supervision and we learned all kinds of useful stuff.
Anyway, these were exclusive condominiums and we stepped up, so to speak, living there. They were not like the apartments we were used to living in. These were condominiums. None of the apartments we ever lived in had a gate at the front entrance.
All the buildings were made of stucco, and were painted a sandy flamingo pink. They were like adobe, with no building shaped like the others. The entrances to the condominiums were not easily identifiable. They were all in little nooks and crannies.
The apartments we had lived in before were sort of like motels. Each building had four apartments upstairs, two staircases, and four apartments downstairs, a newspaper thrower’s dream. I could hit eight doors in less than thirty seconds.
The Wedgwood condominiums were built on the site of the biggest amusement park Oklahoma City had ever accommodated. It had an Olympic size swimming pool with a two-story clubhouse with a weight room and a sauna and all sorts of ritzy things. The second story was a swanky nightclub, members only. My mom’ second job was as a waitress in the club. Dick met her there.
The place was very cool. One night, I got to see my first dead person. I was headed over to play pinball and there was a crowd gathering at the bottom of the stairs that led up to the club. There was a huge fat guy lying on his back.
“No, he’s not dead, he’s just knocked out,” one guy offered.
“No, no Jim! I think he’s dead! He’s not breathing!”
Now back in 1975, there weren’t any procedures as how to handle such situations so someone ran upstairs and brought back a glass of water in one hand and a shot of vodka in the other.
“Candy, see if you and Jim can lift his head up and get some of this water in him.” With that, Ed threw the vodka back into his own mouth, then squinted and let out a gasp.
I crept in close enough now to see the dead guy’s face was turning purple. I looked up at the circle of faces and said, “Yep, I do believe he’s dead, alright. Maybe someone should call the cops or an ambulance or something.”
By this time, a crowd of about eight or nine people had gathered around poor old dead Arnold. They all knew me.
“Out of the mouths of babes,” Candy said, already running up the stairs to the phone.
I had never seen a dead body before but I knew what it was when I saw it. But then again, I wasn't as smashed as all the idiots standing around me at the time.
Hmm, so that's what death looks like...
 I went back the condo and raided Dick's nicely stocked wet bar. I knew Dick and  Mom wouldn't be home for hours. Then I went into my mother's underwear drawer and downed five or six valiums. Even still, I slept fitfully.
  Baron and I paused in front of the Clubhouse.  The nightclub was closed now. The 'Arnold incident happened well over a year ago, but it seemed like decades. I was fifteen, going on fifty
It was getting dark and I was tired. I hadn't had any alcohol in almost twenty-four hours. It was time to head back.
I came in the door and my mom rushed to me. “You’ve got to be freezing! Let me get your coat.”
As I unzipped Baron, she set him down and hugged me real tight. I could hear her taking deep breaths. It was the police hug. It disappointed me greatly. I walked into the kitchen and hoisted myself up onto a corner counter.
She followed me and started rubbing my hands, first one then the other. She looked into my eyes. I had already passed the sniff test.
“Honey, where have you been? It’s getting so dark and it is so cold. How could you stay out there for so long?”
It was not suspicion that I saw in her face; it was worry, a mother’s genuine concern.
“Mom, this is nothing. I'm used to this kind of weather.” I go snow skiing every other day (oops)uh…I mean… uh…I mean…uh… when school’s not in session..."
My slip up went right over her head.
She looked me straight in the eye. “Are you Ok? Have you seen anyone, called anyone?”
“For God’s sake, no Ma!”
“I’m sorry honey, your eyes, they just look different. Is everything Ok?”
“Yeah, Mom, everything is fine, I was just thinking about that dead guy at the club awhile back, remember that?”
“Honey, its Christmas! Why would you be thinking about that?”
“I don’t know, I just passed by there and thought about it. Please come here and give me a hug.”
She came to me, her body wrapped tightly around mine. I stared over her shoulder, out into the distance. I felt a hundred years old and a million miles away.