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Entry date: 7-5-2022 - The Trees part 2 - Things I made up

Dear Friends,

Let’s get back to the story I started on Saturday. For now, the working title is going to be “The Trees” but I don’t know if that will stick. Please enjoy.


When he arrived home, Jan knew the news wasn’t good just by looking at Dan. She knew him as well as anyone on earth, at least she thought at the time, and she was not fooled by his “I have something to tell you and it’s not good” smile.

Dan was used to giving people bad news. It was part of his job. As a partner in a call center, he had to give people bad news on a regular basis, although usually he was telling them to go share it with someone else. He hated letting go of things, people, ideas, but sometimes you had to do it.

In the previous six months, he had been the bearer of bad news for just shy of three dozen employees due to the ebb and flow of the sales world. While they had a lot of great clients at work, it was always a revolving door. Selling technology, well, conversations about technology, was a business that moved quickly.

Dan had worked his way up in the business and knew that even the worst callers could sometimes turn it around if they just got on the right campaign. Dan preferred to move his people around until they found the right fit, but some people just never fit. You have to want to be good on the phones and Dan knew this to be true, even if he hated to lose people.

Dan loved to say, “Phone work is hard.” It was even written on a plaque in Dan’s office, and he put it there for a reason. He wanted people to know this from the minute they came to work for him, and he insisted that his onboarding trainers started off every new hire session with this quote.

His partner and friend, John Rawls, didn’t think this was a good idea at first, but it grew on him. Dan had a way of explaining things to people that helped them believe in themselves. He knew, instinctively it seemed, how to get people on the same page and how to get past whatever challenge people were having that stopped them from believing they could be successful.

Layoffs were part of the game, though, and Dan had gotten used to using his “I have something to tell you and it’s not good” smile.

Jan was often the one who helped him work through the feelings of frustration that would go home with him on these days. The tough days. She would help him believe that he could carry on and be successful, even when it felt like he was failing.

Dressed in her exercise clothes, Jan must have just gotten home from a walk in the neighborhood when Dan walked through the door off the carport. She was in the long, rectangular kitchen drinking water from her favorite glass. It was a 70s style glass with different colored rings going up and down the glass. She loved it and he loved that she loved it.

The Lewis family lived in an older, somewhat affluent section of Phoenix near a historic hotel called The Biltmore. It was a comfortable house, old, but they had done some updates over the years to make it fit their family better, although space was not an issue. For the five Lewis’s, it was plenty of room.

The house itself was kind of a maze. You could walk a hallway that basically a square if you included the screened in patio on the north side of the house. There were five bedrooms, a dining room, a living room, a large den, and an office. The front of the house faced a quiet cul-de-sac with neighbors on the right and left, but no one’s front door was particularly close to theirs.

The backyard was large. In typical Phoenix fashion there was a swimming pool, but there was also room enough next to the pool for a good game of whiffle ball or badminton. Along the back of the fence, there were lots of mature trees. A couple of pine trees flanked several eucalyptuses and the obligatory citrus.

The trees were what made Dan fall in love with the house when he and Jan were looking to buy in the early 1990s. There was something so peaceful about them and it made you forget there was no neighbor directly behind the house, the canal that split their neighborhood from the one just to the north.

The fence line was set about ten feet into the edge of the property, so there were trees on either side of the block wall. The previous owners had valued their privacy, so this area of the yard was thick with foliage and trees creating a layer of seclusion to the Lewis family would learn to appreciate over the years. There was a gate, but most of the bikers, dog walkers, neighbors, and joggers probably never noticed it.

Hidden among the creeping fig, wisteria, and honeysuckle that lined the block wall was a gate. It was blocked to the northwest and to the east by trees, so unless it was opened as someone was passing by at the perfect angle, you would never know it was there. The latch was on the inside and there was a thin chain that laid under the creeping fig to get back in if you needed to do so.

Sometimes Dan and Jan (the rhyme was not lost on them, ever) would slip out the gate that was almost hidden in their fence and walk the canal together after work or on the weekends. This was time for them to unwind and talk about their days. Sometimes it was a just a quiet walk and people watching, but lately, Dan had begged off when Jan invited him.

Dan knew that their sons, Cole, who was 17, and J.R. (Short for John Randall), who was 22, would slip out that back gate to meet girls, smoke weed, drink, etc., but he never let on. The neighborhood was safe, and everyone watched out for everyone else’s kids. He hoped Annie hadn’t figured this out yet, but she was the smartest of the kids, so she probably had.

Today, though, as Dan measured the look on Jan’s face as he walked in the door, all he wanted to do was hold her hand and slip through the back gate one more time without anyone noticing. They needed to talk.

See you tomorrow.

The trees didn't look like this, but I took this picture of the ones I can see right now the other day.

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