THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
Live! From Paradise!
By Larry Brody
My life took an unexpected turn last weekend. I’m still sorting it out.
Gwen the Beautiful and I had planned to visit Wanda the Arkansas Angel. But a phone call changed that.
“Hey, it’s Zeph. I’m in the neighborhood. Got time for me to drop in?”
I hadn’t heard that voice in almost a decade, since a rookie cop named Zeph was assigned to take me around Cowboy City while I shot a movie there. He was bright, helpful, a good guy, but although I was happy to hear from him this wasn’t the best time.
Zeph caught my hesitation. “I’m in trouble,” he said. “I need your help.”
That’s not something you say no to. I gave him the directions to our little corner of Paradise.
“I’ll be there tomorrow morning,” Zeph said.
The Zeph I remembered was a man of his word. That hadn’t changed. The next morning a battered old Dodge pulled into our clearing. Out popped an older, troubled version of the eager young man I remembered, his sandy hair now tinged with gray.
We did the welcoming embrace thing, and I asked if he wanted coffee.
“No thanks,” he said. There was an edge in his voice.
“No time,” he went on.
No. Not nervousness.
“C’mon,” I said. “Let’s talk.”
Decker the Giant-Hearted accompanied us down the trail to the Original Settlers’ Cabins. These days, the cookhouse is just a three-sided shell, and the main cabin looks like it’ll follow suit any day.
“Some wreck, huh?” I said.
“Reminds me of my life,” said Zeph. And then, in a torrent:
“I’m on the run, bud. Ten years a cop and now I’m on the other side. They put me undercover a couple years ago. I was always Mr. Clean so nobody wrong knew me. Made me the perfect nark.
“I met users and dealers and smiled and became their friend. Played ‘em off each other. Set ‘em up. Put ‘em in the slammer! I was awesome at my job.
“Then I met Ruby. She was a crystal meth addict but hadn’t lost her looks yet. We fell in love, and I straightened her out. She flew through rehab! To celebrate, I left my wife and daughter. Ruby and I became one.
“The PD put me into a big sting operation. Our little Podunk City squad and some Feds. My ticket to a promotion. After it was over I’d be a lieutenant, and off the street.
“I was worried about how Ruby would take it when she found out I wasn’t the bum she thought. Decided to force the issue and told her straight out. She freaked. And then she made a very bad move.
“The Feds had given me a bag with $10,000 for the big buy that would break a very bad guy. The day before we were set to roll, Ruby and the bag disappeared.
“I found Ruby five days later,” Zeph continued. “She was zonked out of her head ‘cause she’d spent every penny in that bag on crystal. The Feds figured out what’d happened. They wanted her. And the PD wanted me.
“There’s a right way to do things and a wrong one. I was crazy in love, and I made a choice. Threw Ruby into my undercover car and took off with her. Anything to keep her out of jail.”
“Where is she now?”
“She bailed in Tulsa. Turned herself in and said I’d put her up to it. Now everybody’s after just me. I loved her, Larry! I feel all broken inside. Like somebody crushed my spirit. And I think that somebody was me.”
Decker jumped up on Zeph. Put his paws on Zeph’s shoulders and licked his face. A face that already was wet with tears.
Zeph patted him. Turned to me. “Thanks for the talk. Feels a little better now, getting it out.”
Without another word, Zeph headed back up the trail. As I started after him a gust of wind blowing from the southeast stopped me. I turned to face it.
“What’s going to happen?” I said. “What’s he going to do?”
“What he has to,” the wind said. “Just like everyone else.”
“You did good.”
“I didn’t do anything,” I told the wind. “I wanted to make everything better. But I just let the man talk.”
Another gust plucked my hat from my head. Sent it sailing. “I was talking to Decker!” said the wind.