Mr. Cellophane

She could walk right by me and never know I was there?

I must thank the virus and the governor of our state for giving me all the time in the world to stand still and do nothing. Thanks to the governor of our state, I had in the walk of life and honor of being just another piece of cellophane. The powers that be could look right through me, walk right by me, and never know I'm there.

I could not open the doors of my business even though I owned the building it was in. So, what if I was going broke, they did not care. I was to be like everybody else, I had to stay at home, do as I was told, and be a good boy.

All my staff had been laid off for so long that they were no longer getting any unemployment. Some had started making the rounds weekly to get as much government assistance as possible.

As for getting a helping hand from the government as a small business, do not laugh but most of the stimulus in our state had been picked up by those who contributed the most to both political parties thanks to the advance warning, they had everything needed ready to apply once it was announced. After all, looking after your biggest contributors is every politician's first and only important responsibility if they ever plan on being reelected.

With my wife being so unhappy that she had to work at home I soon learned she was taking it out on me because I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. In her eyes, I had become nothing but a fly flying around her face. An irritant that she could not get rid of. It seemed that the virus was bringing out the worst in everybody.

After three months of dealing with the stay at home bull shit, her growing bitchiness, and getting nothing but the cold shoulder with a sex life to match. It had reached the point that we were sleeping in different bedrooms. In her eyes, it was all my fault.

Having spent my twenty-eighth birthday watching reruns on tv I had reached the boiling point. I was fed up with putting up with the bullshit of the constant stay at home orders. Yet I could freely go riot and loot on the streets because it was the only thing some level of government had not made illegal.

I knew something had to give. I knew that it was not going to be the powers that be sitting in their glass houses laughing at the rest of us. It looked like the governor was imitating China.

In the middle of the night, after the wife had gone to sleep, I decided it was time to make a move. I packed up some of my clothing into a couple of suitcases I had borrowed from Erin's large set. I slipped out of the house in search of some of the freedom that we all had seemed to have lost.

Slipping into my four-year-old ford truck and starting it, I knew I had broken the governor's stay at home orders and could be arrested. I could no longer live under a dictatorship. I am a law and order man but if it continued this way, I was going to hit someone. With just the wife and me in the house, we all know who would bear the cost. I guess I was running to protect my wife.

Erin's job was secure since she is a fed employee who worked for the social security administration and thanks to federal laws could not be fired even if she were incompetent. They were super busy because of the slow down caused by the political decisions made by mini dictators which had brought major job losses because they had done things to deliberately destroy the economy.

A lot of elderly housewives were starting their retirement early. I thought why not those jobs would never be coming back thanks to social engineering. Was the government deliberately doing this to punish us? Or else their employers were so glad to get them out of the door that when there were recalls they would be on the bottom of the totem pole because the norms of our society were gone. What was, no longer mattered as the power of the position they held had gone to their head.

All she had to do was sit at her home computer and answer the phone when a call was transferred to her and remain linked to the department's system with her computer. It took her three days to realize I was gone. Another day to see the note that I had left on the message board that we used to check daily. All it said was, Going stir crazy, gone fishing.

Based on what I later learned I think she was more upset about me breaking the stay-at-home order than me being gone. Yes, that was how bad it had gotten. Two people who claimed to love each other were taking out their frustrations against each other.

I would learn later that it was not our current situation that upset her, it was that it had turned her everyday routine upside down. The thing eating at her the most was that she missed the art of the dance she was in with another businessperson who worked downtown near her. It had not reached the point that they were sleeping together but if the virus would not have come, they would have been.

As soon as I had left the state, I started seeing my situation in a different light. I had taken my favorite movie to heart because I was the running man. I quit shaving and let my hair go wild, two things I had not done in years. It was not long until I had lost a civilized look.

The further I was away from home the more different I saw how things were. Not all states were like the one I lived in. Some were allowing their citizens to get on with their lives. Sad that none of these truths was being seen in our local media.

It was in the middle of nowhere about five days later in a town whose name that did not matter that I had to acknowledge that I was in part was to blame. I had like so many had allowed the powers that be control me. That was the day I took my life back. I realized that even in the state, we lived in I was nothing but a piece of cellophane.

I turned on my cellphone to find I only had one text message from Erin which read you could have told me in person you needed time for yourself. Having gotten my humor back I sent one back. No need, you would not have heard me anyway.

I went to my contact list and found Krack Parson's name and called him. Krack was Jeff Parson but to all who knew him from back in the day, they understood why he earned that nickname. He answered on the first ring.

"Shit head what in the hell do you want," Krack said with a laugh.

"The same thing I always do, your balls on a platter," I responded with right back. "Seriously I need to give you some work."

Krack's voice changed instantly and he got serious with the real estate market half dead he needed any business he could get because so many were unable to pay their rent.

"Seven percent I won't go any lower not even for one of my best friends. What are you putting up for sale?" Jeff said.

"The business and the building my business is in," I said.

"Jesus, Cameron if things are that tight, I can float you fifty thousand until you get back on your feet," Jeff said in sincerity.

"Jeff I'm leaving the state like so many others I'm done not being able to live. I cannot take being a dead fish in a sardine can. I need to breathe. I have had enough of the bull shit," I said. "I want my freedom back."

I knew Jeff would know what I was saying because back in the day our favorite television movie was ' Easy Rider 'and our theme song was "Born to be wild." That was before we took on life and got serious about doing something with it.

"What about Erin?" Krack asked. He always had said that if the situation were different, he would have been interested in getting a crack at her. She had been one of the packs of girls that always hung around with the guys as we were all growing up.

"I'll let you answer that for yourself," I said. "Ask your wife, Lissy, to ask about Mr. Cellophane when they're out grocery shopping at Wally World Friday night."

Jeff and I talked about getting an appraisal on the building because I had a bunch of tenants. He warned me to be prepared for some bad news because real estate values were dropping.

As soon as we were done chatting, I went to the nearest Notary and had a restricted power of attorney drawn up so Jeff could act on my behalf. I had them email him a copy and send the original directly to him. That way things could legally be done without my signature.

With that done it was back on the road looking for an opportunity that caught my eye. The only thing it had to be something different. I was in no rush I had no place I needed to be and no place I had to go. I just knew that I could not go back to the box I had allowed myself to be put in.

I had left behind the stale and wanted the excitement. Somehow five days later, on a Monday I found myself driving through some of the prettiest country I had ever seen. The Cumberland Plateau in Kentucky which has so many of the historic coal mines that were no longer in production had a true beauty that could not be captured on any screen.

I had stopped at a town called Jasper for lunch at a dinner on the main street and picked up the local rag that someone had left on the counter. Browsing through it while waiting for my order I discovered a piece of property that looked interesting as I sipped on my coffee.

Just then the server brought me my order a club sandwich, fries, with a brown-gray on the side. She saw the picture I was looking at and said, "Oh that's the park we used to spend part of summers at when we were kids. I loved the place. It went broke because of the feds shutting down and destroying the coal industry. It's been for sale for years."

"What's wrong with it?" I asked.

"Nothing but with the high unemployment in the area there is not much can be done with it unless you have got an idea that would make it profitable or planned to retire." The waitress said. "What caught your attention?"

"The one hundred and fifty acres, the shoreline access to the lake, and the low price," I replied.

"Off the record," the waitress said. "My sister holds the listing and believes that the owner would accept less. By the way, my name Bryanna but everyone calls me Brie."

"Nice to meet you," I said holding out my hand. "My name is Cameron, but you can call me Cam. Two quick questions. Where's the closest hotel and what's the best way to contact your sister?"

"She's most likely at her office. It's three blocks down and on the left side of the street," Brie said. "The Hampton Suites have the best rates and you passed it on your way in."

The club sandwich was nothing to write home about, better than most but not spectacular, the fries were perfect once I applied the side of brown gravy on them and added some salt and pepper.

When she returned to refill my coffee cup she asked, "Do you always eat fries in restaurants with brown gravy?"

"Every time it is available. Half the time I will even add ketchup and malt vinegar. Unless they are made traditionally like they are in Britain," I said. "You can't slaughter it if it is already dead.

Brie got a smile on her face and responded, "Dad will get a kick of that remark because we are always teasing him because he does the same thing."

"Sounds like he is a man that has good tastes," I said in humor. Thankfully, she caught my jest.

From behind me, I heard a voice over my shoulder say, "Okay Sis I'm here what's up."

"Brandy this is Cam, Cam this is my older sister. I called her for you," Brie said. "Brandy, Cam's interested in the old 'havesumfun campground park."

My first impression of Brie's sister Brandy was that she was professional. A brunette who dressed to impress with a genuinely nice shape. She had the nicest hazel eyes I had ever seen. Appeared to be in her mid-twenties and was not wearing a wedding ring. I still was.

I stood up to offer her my hand and learned that she at the most two to three inches shorter than me. Her shoulder-length hair was pinned back so that it allowed one an unrestricted view of the softness of her face. I smiled because she had a pair of hiking boots on her feet.

I am five foot eleven, I weigh about one-eighty with dark brown hair with traces of red. I had a thirty-six-inch waist with little to no body fat. With my current state of appearance, I must have looked like a man fresh out of the wilderness. She sat down beside me and had a hot tea while I finished my meal.

As soon as I had finished, off we went. Brandy explained that being off the highway it was hard to sell the place. I asked her about the water and sewage. She said both were available from the road and were supplied by the county.

The land had the typical rolling hills covered in a lot of marketable timber. A few small buildings were no longer livable but still had running water. Traces of the former campsites could still be seen. The only flat area was near the lake. Thanks to Brandy I learned about a few of the memories her family had of the place.

"What about the lake? Are motorized boats allowed on it? Can it be fished?" I asked.

"It's a manmade lake that has been around for the last fifty to sixty years," Brandy said. "My dad still fishes it for trout. Not sure about boats but there is a lot of canoers who use them a lot. I know that the water is deep enough to handle big boats."

"Has the area ever been hit by a tornado," I asked?

"We have lived here all our lives and I've never seen one?" Brandy replied.

"One final question any restrictions on land use?" I asked.

"We still have time to get to the country registry to find that fact out," Brandy said.

As we drove to the county office Brandy told me about their family's story. Her father had been a coal miner most of his life who had to reinvent himself when the coal mines in the area were forced to close down thanks to the fed's interference and their new regulations. It had been a few rough years for everybody that lived in the area.

For them, it was one that ended up with a divorce where no one won and bitter feelings that were left all around. The lack of money and no way to make it was the root of most of their problems.

"We were not the only family that went through a living hell because of the politics at the time and we won't be the last," Brandy said. "But it's always the average Joe that pay's the price for those who have an agenda. What was done to this area of the country was so bad that we still have not recovered from it. Can I ask what brought you here?"

'In my state, they shut my business down but let the international corporate stores continue operating. Tells me that the powers that be do not believe that we the average citizen have the common sense to keep our establishments virus-free. When they issued another stay at home order for the umpteenth time I ran because I valued my freedom," I said. "I guess that makes me a militant in their eyes because I want my independence back."

After finding out that there were no restrictions on the land I put in an offer for full price.

"You could most likely get it for at least ten to twenty percent less," Brandy said. "The owners are desperate to sell."

"No give him full price," I said. "That way if I need information down the road that they may know they will be open to it answering my questions."

Little did I know that when Brandy went and told the seller what I had said that my reputation of being a fair and decent man was established. Thanks to his word of mouth offers would come in that would change the direction of my whole life.

I tried to call my wife to give her an update of what was going on but kept getting a busy signal, so I sent her a text to give me a call when she was free.

"I was just signing into the Hampton Inn when I saw Brandy and Brie walking through the door both wearing huge smiles on their faces. They waited until I was done.

"Your offer has been accepted," Brandy said. "They are willing to speed up the closing date if you want to."

"Is there a land title office that can get a title search done so we can finish it up Wednesday morning," I asked?

"Let me make a quick phone call to see if I can get that worked out." Brandy said with a huge smile as she walked off.

I asked the bellhop to have my luggage delivered to the room and handed him a twenty. Brie and I went over and sat on one of the lobby's couches.

"I wanted to thank you," Brie said. "You have given my sister another couple of months of breathing space before she might have had to close the doors. Yours the first sale her office has had in four months."

I was amazed because when you drive through a place all you see is smoke and mirrors. It reminded me that that it was not so easy for us as humans to see beyond what is right in front of us. I was also surprised that Brandy who was in desperate need had not acted out of greed. To me, it said a lot about the kind of person she was.

"What her story if you don't mind me asking," I said?

"Divorced, raising two children both girls," Brie explained. "Her husband left her while she was carrying her second and she is still bitter from it. He's the mayor who had been doing her former best friend."

"So, it's complicated because it's his office that she has to deal with when straightening out local legal problems on property dealing with zoning and other things that she's trying to sell for her clients," I said.

Brie paused after I said it then said, "I never saw it, both are seeing the other as an ongoing aggravation of their former relationship. That is why there no getting beyond it. Each time they face each other it gets magnified again. They have no separation from what they have gone through."

"Title search is being done, and I told them that you were buying title protection," Brandy said as soon as she joined us. "Meet me at the office Wednesday morning and we will go together to get the paperwork done."

"Is there a nice restaurant nearby where I can treat you both for dinner," I asked?

"There are lots but I have been dying to try the new Pastels that has opened up. Perhaps you can take Brie because I must go home and feed my daughters," Brandy said.

"Text me the directions, grab your girls and bring them with you," I said. "Let set seven-thirty as the time to meet."

They agreed. Meeting her daughters that night answered a lot of questions I might have asked later.

I went upstairs to shower and change. After having seen my image in the mirror I did a major cleanup of my face and decided to keep the good start of the goatee and mustache. When I was done, I liked the new image I had left myself with.

Having always been clean-shaven I found that this new image gave me a look with a bit more maturity. After having completed that task I called my wife Erin. She answered after the fourth ring.

"Just thought I would touch base," I said. "I found a new location to start over again but it's in a different state."

"That might be a good idea," Erin said. "The governor has expanded the shut down again. Any idea of when you might be home? Oh, be warned when you come back from out of state you now must quarantine yourself for two weeks."

"Right now, I am tied up here," I said. "At least for the time being getting things organized."

"Leave the phone on so I can call you," Erin said.

That struck me as strange because with her making her living by talking on the phone right now the last thing she had been wanting to do was talk on the phone. We talked briefly for a couple of minutes before ending the call.

I found it strange that she did not ask me where the new location was. Afterward, as I was reviewing our chat, I assumed that she most likely believed I was opening a second location of what I had been doing. I remembered that I had heard voices talking in the background.

My next call was to Krack who when he answered said, "Hang on let me change rooms."

That was strange because Jeff never hid anything. Lissy his wife of six years knew everything. That led me to perceive that whatever he was going to disclose to me if heard would create problems at home.