Karen Woods's Blog: Woods' world

May 24, 2012

I absolutely loathe the term “covert operations.” It’s a one size fits none description of everything a government does which it, for one reason or other, cannot afford to claim. Assassinations, although technically prohibited as instruments of US policy due to Presidential order, are as likely to be covered by the term as are any number of more minor actions. I know only too well, to my profoundest sorrow, at times governments are required to take actions which if brought to light would be, to say the least, embarrassing in the extreme.
I stood at my Ned’s fresh grave on the morning of Friday, the second day of October, as a direct result of one of those covert operations.
In the more northerly parts of the country, this would have been a season for brightly colored leaves and crisp days. The autumn colors are almost the only thing I missed from my years as a doctoral candidate in New England. The Berkshire Mountains are breathtakingly lovely when they are dressed in their fall finery. But autumn in Massachusetts is a far cry from the weather that exists in Central Florida in early October.
The cemetery workers had been, quite obviously, uncomfortable with my staying to watch the lid be placed on the cube of a vault now holding Ned’s ashes and for the whole thing to be covered with soil. Despite the workers’ obvious discomfort, none of them actually said a word to me.
Gee, maybe, just maybe, they were smarter than they looked. Of course, that wouldn’t have been terribly difficult.
Had any of the workers said a single word to me, I believe I might have gleefully taken off their heads and handed the bloody appendages to them, both singularly and as a group.
To say I was grieving would be an understatement of purely British proportions.
Of course, I don’t know how anyone could have expected me to be in any other state of mind. I had just buried my husband’s mortal remains, or rather cremains.
Ned had been killed on Monday evening. Then, I had him cremated on Tuesday morning, while we were still out of the country. The last thing the team needed was some medical examiner nosing around in Ned’s death. Besides, Ned had wanted to be cremated.
I had been standing alone at the grave while wrapped in the mantle of my grief for just over an hour by that time.
Numbness was not at all a good sign. I wished I could feel anger, yell and scream, or even cry. Almost anything would be better than this frozen, emotionless, state of mind in which I had resided for the preceding few days. I had been functioning on automatic pilot, going through the motions, accomplishing the things which needed to be done, but all the time being progressively more distant and closed off within some imaginary bubble which prevented me from touching or being touched.
Andre, my father, had not been able to reach me, even though he had tried, really tried, to reach out to me. My friends call me “Suzi Steamroller.” But, anyone observing my dear father at work would conclude I come quite honestly of the unfortunate tendency to ride roughshod over people.
My father had demanded I return to California with him. But, that was not something I could, which I had any desire to, do. Andre was scheduled to go on tour with his band in only a few days. I didn’t want to be left to roam around Los Angeles on my own, or even in the company of a couple old friends. Nor did I want to put myself in a position where he would pressure me to join his band on tour. I really did not need his well-intentioned maneuvering. I was perfectly capable of screwing up my own life all, whatever I might have left of it, by myself, thank you very much.
Soon, I would have to leave graveside in order to go home, change, rest a while, and catch a plane to New York. From there, I would make a connection for a late night flight to London. Andre was supposed to meet me at the cemetery gate in a few minutes. I had about ten minutes until I had to leave graveside in order to walk the short distance to the cemetery entrance.
Ned and I had planned this European trip as a mixture of business trip for me and a second honeymoon. It felt strange to contemplate taking the trip without him, even though I desperately needed to get away from here. Truthfully, my business in London could have just as easily been transacted via fax machines, telephones, and wire transfers of funds. The trip now was really little more than an excuse to see Leon and Jasmine, as well as their daughter, my precious goddaughter, Kim.
For the moment, I had thought the graveside was as good of a place as any to be, better than most.
Of course, I don’t believe I was actually thinking. I wasn’t terribly aware of my surroundings. Yet, that lack of awareness ended abruptly as I felt a rough male hand close over my mouth.
“Quiet, lady. Won’t hurt’cha if yer quiet,” a young man’s voice said as I heard the sound of a switchblade open. “Gotta knife, lady. Cut’cha doncha do whatta say.”
Touching me without invitation is one way for any man to help himself into a world of hurt. Touching me with clear intent to harm is the surest way I know for any person to immediately and drastically decrease his life expectancy.
If the four long years of my marriage to Ned had taught me anything, the lesson was a bad situation could always, would always, become measurably worse. Not reacting immediately to a threat could easily render a person unable to react at all.
So, I stepped back hard and fast, hitting the boy’s instep with my heel while I used my left thumb and index finger to pinch the pressure point at the base of his thumb, and brought my right elbow back sharply into the boy’s ribs.
Normally, since—at six foot one in my stocking feet— I tower over most people, I don’t wear heels. I had broken that habit for Ned’s funeral because Ned had liked to see me in a dress and heels. Two-inch heels had brought me up to six foot three inches. It had amused my late husband to have a woman be physically, not to mention emotionally, able to look him in the eyes.
My foot on my attacker’s instep would have hurt more had the shoes possessed spiked heels, but you can’t have everything. Call it a grievous character fault if you will, but I have never acquired the so called feminine trait of being able walk comfortably in spiked heels. Still, 140 pounds of weight borne by an area of less than two square inches had to have hurt like perdition itself as it was applied to his instep. It was with a large measure of satisfaction I heard him grunt in pain as he dropped his hand from my mouth.
I pivoted around sharply on my other foot. My attacker was only a peach-fuzz faced kid, about equal to my own stocking footed six feet one inch height, sporting one of those awful “skinhead” haircuts. He probably wasn’t more than fifteen or so. The kid was just a punk who was likely looking for easy money by attacking someone in a cemetery. He was dressed in jeans, a tee shirt, and expensive running shoes—none of them any too clean. I wondered how he could afford the shoes, or if he had stolen them. He was just a punk kid.
Or maybe that was simply the impression he was trying to create. Appearances can be made to convey whatever a skilled person wants them to convey. The young man could have been nothing more than he appeared. At that point, it was anyone’s guess. Ned had friends on whom it wasn’t safe to turn one’s back, and enemies for whom dealing in death was a way of life. Either of those groups could have, for vastly different reasons, decided to take definitive action against me.
Those assessments ran through my head in the space of a fraction of a second. I had years of practice at making snap appraisals. I’d learned to trust my instincts.
Without giving the punk any time to react, I drove a hard blow into his muscular midsection. He turned white, staggered back, and then recovered way too quickly for my peace of mind. The kid was stronger and much more resilient than he appeared. I really didn’t want to know that.
He came at me with the knife in his hand and a clear intent to do murder displayed on his face.
I’ve always had a good instinct for survival. Ned used to tell me I would always land on my feet. I offered a mental prayer Ned had been correct.
Taking hold of the wrist of my attacker’s knife hand, using his own momentum against him, I pivoted, breaking his balance. The knife flew out of his hand, landing in the short grass near the new grave, as I threw him.
Unfortunately, my assailant landed on the soft, loosened, soil of Ned’s new grave.
The kid rose to his feet in a single smooth motion. He shouted “Eeeyaah” as he whirled completely around in a roundhouse kick aimed at my stomach.
I dropped to the ground, allowing his kick to go over me. The dirt and the grass stains were noticeable on the black silk suit. But, a suit is a good deal easier to replace than my life would have been.
Fortunately for me, the young man had much more enthusiasm and strength than skill. He obviously wasn’t trained for street fighting with that high dojo/competition style kicks. He was a punk kid, with some training, who was involved in a situation grossly over his head. I almost, almost but not quite, felt sorry for him.
What I did feel was an overwhelming sense of relief. It wasn’t likely either former friends or current foes would have sent a partially trained child after me.
Of course, the thought occurred to me that the punk could have been toying with me, trying to assess my strengths and weaknesses before delivering a killing blow. That wasn’t so far out of the realm of possibility.
The momentum of the swirling kick sent him around so that his back was towards me. Then he stood there for about a second, motionless, as though he couldn’t believe what just happened. Cocky brat!
I used that brief moment to rise to my feet and to kick off my black leather pumps. As he angrily spun around to face me, I executed a fast snap kick, connecting, as I intended, strongly to the young man’s stomach. Then, as he bent over from the pain, I kicked him again.
A single sharp kick to a young man’s groin isn’t fatal. It simply seems so to him, at least until he survives a few of those type of blows. His hands went from his stomach to shield his genitalia from further attack. Before he could recover, I kicked him again, this blow landing to the side of his head.
I’m certain the young man saw red, then black, before he slumped, unconscious, to the ground. If I had wanted to really hurt him, if I had gone after him methodically, I could have easily left him blind, sterile, and crippled, but very much alive; alive and regretting he had ever tried to attack me. I wasn’t certain the punk kid was worth the effort, although the temptation lingered at the edge of my mind.
I was glad the numbness had faded away, if only for the moment. It very nearly felt good to have beaten the boy senseless. The adrenaline was flowing. How much further I would have taken the beating if I had possessed more time is anyone’s guess, my own included.
However, time was not a luxury available to me. No sooner did the kid topple over than I heard a car come to a rapid stop on the roadway behind me. Two doors opened and closed during the time that it took me to turn around.
Ned’s motto had been, “Always expect the worst.”
Two uniformed officers—a middle-aged, wiry, Hispanic male and a younger, brunette, Anglo female— came rapidly towards me, hands on their weapons, but sidearms still holstered.
Who says that you can never find a cop when you need one?
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Published on May 24, 2012 13:15 • 150 views • Tags: karen-woods, no-defense, subrosa-series

May 24, 2011

She was as ready for Shabbat as she was going to be. So she sat near her flax spinning wheel and worked for a few minutes. Using her drop spindle, she worked the very last of the wool she had to spin for this commission. When all the wool was spun, she could begin weaving the large drapery. Since coming to Natsarat, she’d worked more frequently in linen than wool because linen was usually far more profitable.

Oddly enough, this single commission had done more to improve her standing in this community than anything else had done. She’d gone from being ‘that strange orphan girl Yosef married and brought here from Yerushalayim’ to ‘Miriam, the weaver, the maker of the scarlet curtain that is to hang in the Temple’.

Yet, there was no time for reflecting further on this. She needed to get the last of this wool spun before Shabbat began. After the candles were lit, there would be no more opportunity to work on this until this week’s Shabbat ended with Havdalah, the service of separation of the Shabbat from ordinary time, tomorrow night.

Although she hadn’t heard the door open, suddenly, she was aware of someone else in the single room of her house. She startled, looking up to see that strange man from the well, standing there just in front of her. The scream froze in her throat and the spindle dropped from her hand.

“Do not be afraid, Miriam, for you have found favor with Elohim,” the man said in a particularly gentle tone. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son. You will call his name ‘Yehoshua’. He will be great and will be called the Son of El Elyon. Adonai will give him the throne of his father David and his kingdom will have no end.”

Miriam drew a deep breath. Those words had literally taken her breath away. She forced herself to think about the meaning of the words. Her son would be the Moshiach promised by Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father, Our King? How was such a thing possible?

She shook her head. None of this made any sense to her. “How is this to be as I am a virgin?”

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The power of the Most High will overshadow you. The one who is to be born from you will be called the Son of El Elyon. Even now, your kinswoman Elisheva has conceived a child in her old age, and it is the sixth month with her that has been called barren. Everything spoken by Elohim is possible.”

Miriam had heard Zechariah had been struck dumb while serving in the Temple on the Day of Atonement, after receiving a holy vision and had been sent home. Yet she had not heard of Elisheva being with child.

Everyone said Elisheva was well past the age of being able to have a child. Then again, they’d said that same thing about Miriam’s own mother, Anna, of blessed memory. And they had been wrong, apparently on both counts. Elisheva with child? This child would be such a blessing to them in their old age.

She looked at the man. He began to glow with the whitest light she had ever seen. “Who, what, are you?” she asked, hearing the tremor in her own voice.

“I am Gavriel, who stands before Elohim, sent to you, today, as His messenger.”

Miriam’s head spun with the implications of this, of what this would mean for her life, of what this would mean for her people. She couldn’t take it all in. But she’d have the rest of her life to learn how to deal with it, if she agreed to this. Could she agree to it? Still, if this was what Avinu Malkeinu desired, and He wanted it badly enough to send an angel, especially the same angel He’d sent to Moshe to inspire him to write his books, the same angel who had taught Yosef, the son of Yaacov, the seventy languages he had needed to know in order to rule Egypt, the same angel who had been sent to the Prophet Daniel; if this was what Avinu Malkeinu wanted enough to send Gavriel to her with this message, then what else was she to do other than to answer ‘yes’? But, how could she do that? What would her dear Yosef think? Still, Gavriel hadn’t come to Yosef. He’d come to her. How could she not agree when faced with this, especially this, messenger from Elohim?

“I am the handmaiden of Adonai. May it be to me as you have said,” Miriam replied.

Then Gavriel was gone, just there one moment and not there the next.

Miriam blinked and rubbed her eyes. She laughed, her emotions bubbling over into sound.
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Published on May 24, 2011 09:37 • 184 views • Tags: a-mother-s-eyes-by-karen-woods

May 18, 2011

The Kindle edition of A Mother's Eyes is now live on Amazon.

See it at http://www.amazon.com/A-Mothers-Eyes-...
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Published on May 18, 2011 13:43 • 183 views • Tags: a-mother-s-eyes-by-karen-woods

May 17, 2011

On Thursday, 19 May 2011, I'm having a launch party for my new novel, A Mother's Eyes at www.CyberLaunchParty.blogspot.com.

This is a historical Christian novel retelling the lives of Mary and Jesus through Mary's eyes. Think about all the things she saw. Think about a good Jewish girl, for she was hardly more than a girl, being visited by the Archangel Gabriel and being asked if she will become the Mother of God.

Then think about how that one moment, that single "Yes" changed her life.

The first approximately 15,000 words of the 94,000 words of the novel are available to read for free at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/...

Go over and browse. I think you'll like what you see.

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Published on May 17, 2011 17:41 • 139 views • Tags: a-mother-s-eyes

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